We just created a system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Keep these numbers in mind: $5000 for more families to spend on private schools and $180 as a raise for teachers.
A universal expansion of vouchers passed through both chambers yesterday, and I am just this side of heartbroken.
Let’s put our state’s priorities in perspective: Parents will get roughly $5000 per year/per child to spend on their children’s private education. The money will come from the general fund, even though children who leave more affluent districts would otherwise have their education paid for by local revenue streams. Districts in less affluent areas are the ones that rely on the state’s general fund. Those districts also have proportionately fewer students who can make use of vouchers, because $5000 will only pay full tuition at roughly 140 private schools in the entire state. This means that student from a low-socio-economic family would have to come up with the difference between the $5000 and the school’s tuition. Remember…23% of our children live in poverty ($24,000 per year for a family of four), and another 17% hover right above the poverty line. Those families are obviously not going to have that additional money—especially in light of cuts to TANF and other services for our families in poverty.
The universal voucher system means that children who remain in public schools (which will disproportionately be our poorest kids) will have less funding.
Meanwhile, we are facing a teacher-shortage of crisis proportions, and the governor’s solution to that is a .04% raise, which is about $180 a year, which is less than $1 a day. The state’s leaders are making sure that teachers stay relatively poor, which means that many teachers have decided they simply won’t be teachers and—thus—not poor.
The voucher bills will exacerbate the teacher shortage. It will do so for a few reasons: 1) there will simply be less money in the general fund for education; 2) the whole thing is demoralizing and insulting for teachers.
I want to elaborate on #2: Yesterday’s voucher-vote tells teachers that they are not the priority in this state. Our students are also not a priority—unless they are kids who disproportionately come from families of relative affluence.
Why are teachers even staying in this profession? Our state’s leaders’ actions reveal that we are not valued. We are not respected.
It’s so ironic to me, because—as a teacher—I know that the most important factor in my classroom is how valued and respected my students feel. All good teachers know this. It doesn’t matter if I know Heart of Darkness as well as (or better) than any teacher in the nation if my students don’t feel valued.
The path into a student’s mind is through his heart. I can only reach his mind if I’ve also reached his heart.
Why is this basic concept so lost on our state’s leaders?