Bob Schieffer said something over the weekend that I think is a brilliant observation:
Experts cited various reasons, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan said it best: We are failing to give our children a well-rounded education, which may be the understatement of the year.
Our schools are a mess, and have been since the days when we got good teachers on the cheap, because teaching was one of the few professions open to women.
When other opportunities opened to women, they took them, but teacher pay stayed low. There were some wonderful exceptions, but for the most part we got what we paid for.
I certainly don't want to rollback America's workforce so that we can find a cheap supply of teachers, and I think that Schieffer is right when we can say that we are getting what we pay for when it comes to getting poor teachers because education cuts usually leave teachers with low salaries.
That may be simplistic, however. If a school district were organized properly, teacher salaries would be more than taken care of. There would be a regular schedule of raises and there would be bonuses for excellent performance built into the structure of the school system. That would mean that facilities, staff, administration, and extracurricular activities would see cuts BEFORE the salaries of teachers. So, where are the issues here?
Well, the main issue here is, where are you going to find a school district that says that teacher salaries are off the table in terms of discussing budget cuts? Is there a single one out there? Is it even feasible to organize a school district around such a principle? How is it that we hear so much about wanting to cut pensions and benefits instead of cutting administration, overhead, sports, and facilities? I would put pensions and benefits outside of the possibility of cuts as well--what incentive does a good teacher have to stay in a school district when there's no guarantee of retirement benefits?
Is there too much of an emphasis on sports in this country? Are sports really that important? I would say yes, if only because I can't think of a reason why you would cut out the heart of the school's actual mission of teaching children in order to fund something that doesn't go directly towards teaching children in a classroom. Yes, a child can benefit and learn from sports--our country is certainly too fat to say otherwise--but where are the priorities? Starting with basic education and hiring qualified teachers is what each and every school district should be organized around.