I was just at my son's elementary school this morning, volunteering in his Kindergarten class. I got to cut and tape and wrap string around cardboard squares, and it could have been the most peaceful hour of my life... except for all those pesky kindergartners running around.
I was struck by the magnitude of what Will's teacher does every day. The number of kids and the size of their personalities.... I truly walked up to her and said, "I don't know how you do it!" She shrugged and smiled humbly, but did share that it is a bit harder this year because she has 11 more kids than she had last year, and last year she had an assistant. It took me a minute to process the mathematical logic where the district would add kids and then subtract an aide... and it hit me. "Vote no." Last spring there was a referendum to raise our property taxes a meager amount in order to maintain the school's budget. But, the public spoke... and what's worse, they voted... and the referendum failed.
After sitting in that room today, with a fantastic teacher in a 4 star school, all I could think is that all of those vote no-ers owe that teacher an apology. I hope that some day those people that couldn't spare $25 a year (I am sure you can find them eating McDonalds or spending money at the movies, but couldn't spare even that small amount for the school district) can see what their lack of generosity has caused. They sit back and say "down with taxation" and criticize the school district's money management, and I get it. The superintendent has some fat he could trim, but when the federal and state government slashes education budgets, there ain't enough fat to be trimmed to earn all that funding back. And interestingly, I wonder how these people will feel if the schools stop being 4 star award winners. What happens when my generation decides to flock elsewhere because we want our kids in the best school district, but this one can't even pay the phenomenal teachers and aides that it takes to be the best. What happens to your home values when the buyers look away and the market drops? Is it worth your $25 a year then?
I want to apologize to my son's teacher today, and to all the other teachers who heard "we don't care about you" when they heard the result of that vote in the spring. I want to say that I am sorry that their jobs are the harder for it, and our extremely high expectations haven't changed. I am sorry that they got the message loud and clear, that we expect them to do more, earn less, work harder and put in more time... and we will sit back, drink our Starbucks $8 lattes and bitch about the state of the economy and education in this country. I am sorry that for some reason people don't realize that the building blocks of education should be more important than, well, anything else. I am sorry.... not because I voted no... but because I didn't work harder to make everyone else vote yes. I am sorry... and I hope that my volunteering, and that of the other parents who actually support our schools can be a little help in what must be a very uphill battle. I'm just really sorry.