Watching the budget protests by teachers in Wisconsin over the last week I have to say I am not at all impressed. It seems like a really simple thing to me, your state is broke and looking to save some money. Government officials looking at the education budget. I would if I were in their shoes. No one wants to lose teachers or classroom staff so you propose cutting teacher pay and ask teachers to contribute more for their benefits. Seems like a good deal to me. Teachers get to keep their jobs, unlike so many others in this country who have no jobs, they get to keep some good benefits, unlike so many others in this country who have little or no benefits, and kids get presumably qualified professionals teaching them in the classroom. I am at a loss to see how forcing a situation where teachers have to be fired is good for teachers or students.
Now on to the situation in New York state. I've been getting emails about a planned rally to take place in Albany in March to demand that the state not cut any education funding and particularly not any funding for special education. As the mother to two children with special needs one would normally be safe in assuming that I would be on board with this sort of protest. But I'm not, far from it in fact. I won't be going to Albany and I won't be writing any letters to elected officials demanding that they not cut education budgets either. If anything I'll be writing to ask my elected officials not to chicken out on this issue. I want them to do what needs to be done to keep qualified individuals in the classroom while staying within budgetary constraints.
People in New York state need to get real. New York state is broke. The Syracuse City School District alone is in the hole to the tune of $50 million. All over this state cities, towns, and school districts and hurting for cash and trying to find ways to meet their responsibilities to their citizens. I'm wondering where the people demanding that legislators save our schools by not slashing budgets expect said legislators to get the money to fill those gaping holes in the budget. Demands that we tax the "rich" are problematic. No, I'm sorry the word problematic just to mild. Demands that the government tax the "rich" are down right juvenile, short sighted, and the kind of simplistic thinking that got New York state in the financial mess it is in in the first place. We don't need no stinking financial discipline we can just tax the "rich" right? Wrong.
The "rich" serve as both a cash cow to be bled dry and a scapegoat. Setting up the "rich" as the boogie we must defeat in order for the middle class to prosper is a convenient smoke screen. The fact of the matter is that New York state already has one of the highest tax burdens in the country. Do we really want to play how high can you go? The definition of "rich" is so conveniently indistinct and transient that the "rich" are whoever government officials decide are "rich" and ripe for plundering despite any reference to economic realities.
Parents, and especially parents of special needs kids, need to live in the real world when it comes to the state education budget. The same way families across this state, and across the country, are going no frills to make sure that the essentials are taken care of our schools, towns, cities, and the state need to as well. Instead of demanding that politicians keep spending money that they haven't got (unless you want to fork over more of that shrinking paycheck that you may or may not be getting or those unemployment benefits) work on ways to meet the needs of students without breaking the bank.
Schools are required by law to provide free and appropriate education to all of their students. Parents need to be having frank discussions on how to do that within budgetary constraints not chasing pie in the sky dreams and alienating potential allies. I have this radical idea that instead of firing teachers and support staff in classrooms we should cut teacher pay and dial back some of their benefits so we can keep more of them doing the jobs that they love. I've met some wonderful educators and support staff who stand to loose their jobs otherwise.
While people are busting a vein at the suggestion that teacher pay and benefits should be cut I'm saying go ahead, trim paychecks and benefits all the way up the way up the hierarchy. It is for the children after all. If teachers' unions don't want to get on board with the plan for the sake of keeping more of their members bringing home a paycheck and for the sake of the students those teachers serve then go nuclear and go after collective bargaining rights. Again, it's all for the children.