Friday, April 30, 2010


Paring the proboscis to peeve the physiognomy - cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face - is rarely a good idea. But that’s exactly what is happening as declines in state and local tax revenues force spending cuts.

There are certain state services that really need to be supported in order to maintain a functioning, habitable society. You can’t do without police and fire protection. And, although the effects of cutbacks are less immediate, you can’t do without education.

Teachers have a hard enough go of it even in good times. Salaries are well below those available in private industry, and under the current No Child Left Behind philosophy of ensuring that, by 2014, every child in the United States is above average - Lake Wobegon writ large - a teacher’s career, more than ever, depends on factors beyond his or her control. If you work in an economically disadvantaged school, or if you teach a class with a large cohort of students on the low end of the bell-shaped Intelligence Distribution Curve, you are well and truly fucked.

But now, with state money thin on the ground, teachers are getting hammered. I’m talking about involuntary furloughs, RIF’s (Reductions in Force, a corporate-sounding euphemism for “firing a shitload of people”), and elimination of whole programs. The net effect: Fewer teachers, fewer programs, and less pay... without any change in the huge Unfunded Mandates like NCLB that must be accommodated.

Cutting education spending may be an unfortunate and dire necessity, a cascade effect of declining tax rolls, a nation- and worldwide economic meltdown, and record unemployment. But it’s an action of desperation akin to eating your seed corn, the full effects of which will - make no mistake about it - be severe and long-lasting. [And it’s not as though Georgia has that far to go before its quality of education is ranked dead last.]

Good schools attract employers and help create a productive, competitive workforce. Conversely, bad schools drive away prospective residents, employers, and jobs. Maybe our honorable governor should rethink his priorities so that Georgia remains an attractive and economically sound place to live and raise a family.

No comments: