Parents are beginning to get mad...
I live in Illinois, a state on the brink of financial disaster, a state that is looking to shed billions of dollars from its budget. In its quest to shed those billions, it's floating the idea that school districts now must be consolidated from almost 900 districts to 300.
This idea of consolidation has sparked a lively dialogue in my community. And from what I see is that parents and (unionized) school employees are united in what we don't want to see happen. We don't want more kids in the classroom. We don't want less teachers. We don't see the value of cutting art, physical education and music from the curriculum.
What we want is for our children to have access to the best education we can provide.
What I'm also beginning to hear from fellow parents of school-aged children are questions about the current national focus on pumping billions into our financial sector while our schools are beginning to starve for funds.
What is a society that rewards bankers as it penalizes children?
Short-sighted indeed. Our children are the key to the future success of our nation.
As part of my desire to "give back to the community," I occasionally write articles for my school's newsletter. I was privileged last year to talk to the man who was principal of my school in the 1950s, around the time when Sputnik took off, shattering the American dream of being first to space. The retired principal told me that because of the global challenges we faced at the time, because of our desire to emerge victorious over communism, our government created funding sources for programs focused on math and science specifically to enhance the education of our children. It was seen as an investment in our future.
Once upon a time in America, we understood that funding education held the key to defeating our enemies. Apparently we don't have the money to invest in America like that any more. The financial situation for public education is complex, yes. It involves property taxes, state and federal budgets, all of which were hit catastrophically by the 2008 crash of our economy.
What parents saw, when our financial sector crashed, was a federal government that fed an extraordinary amount of money into the hands of people who were, in large part, responsible for the crash. Bankers who get paid large salaries to manage financial risk had done a terrible job, and we all paid the price for their incompetence.
And what do we see today? Social services on the chopping block. Educational funding being cut.
The cost of rescuing our dysfunctional financial sector is now coming due, and is proving very costly indeed.
The current budget conversations taking place in states throughout the country are now raising questions for residents in communities throughout those states - questions about what we, as a nation value, and what we, as a nation, want to invest in. And over here on Main Street, it is absolutely clear that we don't want our money invested in bonuses for bankers.