“We don’t need no education…”

While it may be a line from one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs, it is where our country is going with education. And it is a very scary thing. I have a child in first grade in the public school system in Eugene, OR. My husband and I bought a house in the neighborhood where we live because the public schools were good. We were excited at the prospect of actually being able to send our children through neighborhood public schools. Now that prospect is looking dim. Very dim. And Americans seem only superficially concerned. They seem concerned only when it actually touches their lives very directly. But they don’t seem to care that we as a nation have NOT put our money where are mouths are, and while we talk the education talk, we have time and time again over the last 40 years not walked the walk. All over the USA you can track ballot measures and propositions over the past 30-40 years that have consistently taken money away from schools. Over and over again we as parents are shocked and appalled that our schools aren’t funded well, but we as voters DON’T actually vote to fund them. I don’t usually rant and rave on my blog, and rarely do I get into politics on my blog, but I feel do disillusioned and fed up, I needed somewhere to rant.

Unless something drastic happens in Oregon, and in the town where I live, my kids are NOT going to have a good public education. Last year the Eugene school district was down over 5 million dollars in budget. This year, the budget was down more than $15 million. Next year? Next year we are looking at a budget that will be over $30 million dollars down from this year.  And the prospect over the next 5 years looks like more of the same. Less money every year. Already my kids only have physical education two times per week. Music is only once per week. My kindergartener came home last year from library day with a terribly inappropriate collection of horror stories (all about murder and blood and crime). Why? Because we no longer can staff librarians in any of the elementary schools.

I went to public elementary school in California in the 80′s and received a wonderful education. We had PE every day. We had a full-time librarian. I learned to play the flute because in 4th, 5th and 6th grade we had music lessons three times per week where every child learned an instrument – and a real one, not just the recorder. In public school. Now California schools are probably in the same boat as Oregon schools — maybe even worse, in a bankrupt state.  And why? Because no one wants to pay for schools. No one actually wants to vote on measures and propositions that will fund schools, because it means more money out of their pockets.

I found this very interesting chart (below) on the ED.gov website. At first glance it looks like the graph is trending in the right direction, right? Why do we have any issues, we have raised the per-pupil spending from $3,400 in 1965 to $8,997. But here is the drum roll, people. If you take $3,400 in 1965 and you use an index to see what it equals in today’s dollars, it is the equivalent of $19,231. Now your jaw can drop, and you can realize how  much funding we have actually cut out of our schools since 1965.

Total Expenditures per Pupil (not inflation adjusted)

Don’t get me wrong. I am smack in the middle class group that probably pays the most taxes. I pay a lot of taxes. And I don’t want to pay more. But what is the alternative? If the public schools are not funded, I am going to have to figure out a way to pay anyway — because I will have to pull my kids out of the system and pay for private school. One way or another I will have to figure out a way to pay, because education is important to me. Wouldn’t it be better to fund our schools and continue to be that first world country, the world power that actually acts like one?

So what can I do besides rant and rave? I am doing everything I can. I am trying to work with a group of Edison School parents to start a foundation for the school, so we can raise funds and create an endowment.  I built a website for Edison school on www.givetoedison.com to help parents understand all the programs like eScrip that can donate money to Edison. I signed up for a Paypal account for the school so we can take credit card donations on our Parent Council website, which I built.  I am lucky enough to be part of the 4J School District Superintendent Selection Committee to help select our next superintendent.  What else can I do?

5 thoughts on ““We don’t need no education…”

  1. I’m sorry for the long comment, but I also feel passionate about this issue. I share your frustrations! My daughter is a kindergartner in a public school here in a suburb of Boston. Gym is offered for 30-minutes once a week. Music is once a week. Art is once a week. There is no chorus or instrument program in the entire K-8 school! Your two choices are to send your child to high-quality private school, or make sure your child is properly educated by compensating on your own for the many, many deficiencies in public school education.

    I don’t think money is the problem. Sure, more money might help, but isn’t the real problem widespread American ignorance of general education topics, lack of authority among teachers, and a society-wide avoidance of personal responsibility for just about everything? All over the world, students in systems with much less per capita money (even accounting for currency valuation), out-perform American students in every subject–even English!

    The reason Americans as a group aren’t freaking out about the sorry state of our educational system is because they honestly think “USA #1!” and as long as they can drive around with a “My Kid’s an Honor Student at Such-and-such School” bumper sticker, they’re not really interested in hearing how far behind the rest of the world their little darlings have fallen.

    My sister-in-law is a freshman in an urban, public HS in Bosnia. That country is nearly broke and recently experienced an appalling civil war that included attempted genocide, mass killings, and the death of hundreds of thousands of citizens. Talk about a generation of kids with PTSD! There are 45 students per class. There is nothing in the way of fancy extras. My SIL is just as into clothes, makeup, and boys as her peers here. And yet she’s fluent in English despite having only been out of Bosnia once for 2-weeks, she’s flying through trigonometry (that’s not advanced for freshmen in their system), and she knows more about geography, government, and the history of western civilization than my college-aged American relatives (and some of their parents)! Not only that, in Bosnia (and most of the world), it’s actually cool to get good grades. Yes, it’s cool to be pretty, too, but the most popular girls and guys are the ones with the best grades.

    Until a large majority of Americans becomes able to distinguish between mediocre and smart, and then decides that smart is more desirable, we are destined to flunk!

    • Jen- thanks for your comment. I totally agree with the mediocrity theory. Absolutely. Our Education needs a lot of changing and restructuring. Schools and administrators need to be accountable to excellence. I agree that other countries do way more with way less. But it is also shameful that we as a very rich country can’t also fund our schools better.

      Sabrina Parsons CEO Palo Alto Software http://www.paloalto.com http://www.emailcenterpro.com 541-683-6162

  2. Hey, do you think the school infrastructure could use $8B? Did we really need this more? From a recent experience in the military-industrial complex (yes, it was horrible) I can assure you that $4B of that is completely wasted & could have instead been routed to education. Does the Teabagger crowd, the ones who are anti-taxing everyone’s kids to the point that they come out of school thinking the sun revolves around the Earth, ever mention military spending? No, we allegedly *need* those supercarriers, *need* those hundreds of thousands of barely-got-a-GED warm bodies to fill them and take care of them, *need* the $700B / yr (!) of spending to pay for the whole “shock and awe” show, and an endless stream of “consumers” to buy and sit in front of their Korean-made LCD TVs, drooling, Comfortably Numb! No, kids don’t need no education for that.

    And I don’t even *have* kids.
    Cheers,
    Eric
    http://www.akeeneye.net/

    I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business.
    –Thoreau

  3. I will tell you why voters are shooting down school funding and referendums. School administrator’s wasteful spending. It happens like this, School Board members and Superintendents propose tax levies or referendum’s and inform you that if this does not pass, you will have a fallout of reduced class size, revised bus routs, unsafe environment for the kids, and all the other additional crisis and scare tactics used. Oh, and did I mention a quilt trip that if you don’t vote for the tax increase, well then you are against kids. So the sheeple buy into this nonsense and 2 years later the district is asking for more money. Wait a second, what did you do with the money from the last tax increase? Oh that, ya we implemented some new diversity programs, and most of that money was earmarked for other programs as well. Hmm, what they neglect to tell you is that most of that money went to the Teachers Union for unfunded liabilities like benefits and retirement pensions. Oh and I forgot to mention, campaign contributions to elect officials that favor the Unions and lobby for higher wages and pensions.

    My daughter is in second grade in a public school. She has Physical Ed one day out of the week. Like you, when I went to school we had Pys Ed every day. I to don’t like to get political, but you have Michelle Obama wanting to ban pop and junk food in schools. Someone needs to inform her that exercise is a great way to loose weight. I have a novel idea, why don’t we require exercise in schools. That would be to easy, let’s violate people’s freedom instead and take away their choice.

  4. I am just catching up with some blogs I haven’t visited in awhile…

    Such a good post and I share your concern and frustration! We have serious problems people! My youngest will be graduating h.s. this June and I KNOW he hasn’t had the quality education I had, he hasn’t even had the same education his older brother had. The schools in our area have deteriorated so much in just 6 years. I was talking with my son several days ago, and we both feel he has really just spun his wheels so to speak. He could have smushed 4 years of H.S. into maybe 1 1/2 if you cut out all of the fluff and nonsense. He couldn’t even get some critical classes until his senior year which negatively impacted his SAT and ACT scores.

    We need pay for performance, motivated and excited teachers, higher standards, less fluff and more attention to math, science, technology, reading and writing! Don’t even get me started on how many kids can’t even organize thoughts into a outline or write a decent paper! AND kids that won’t toe the line need to be sent on to a tech school or the trades.

    It is just so alarming and depressing!

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