Not only do teachers take on the responsibility of providing children and young people with the knowledge they require to lead successful adult lives, but they also must endure the constant shifting tides of the political landscape. They must endure receiving blame for a nation’s ills, and they have to endure being a catchall for blame on any problem that arises in people from the age of about 5 to about 25. Teachers have a lot on their shoulders, and more than what should be humanly expected of anyone is expected of teachers. They work for less pay than they deserve, and they are constantly and consistently underfunded.
There are many who would take umbrage at my comments above, but I stand by them wholeheartedly. Just imagine if your job description was constantly being rewritten based upon the political whims of government, all while the public blames you for every psychological and deviant problem that comes about in society. Teachers everywhere within the US have voiced these concerns and have been protesting for many years. Most recently in West Virginia and Oklahoma, where teachers are about to go on strike. Most people assume it’s strictly over a pay raise. While that is certainly a significant part of it, veteran teachers that have been around a while will readily explain that is far from being the whole of it. They are tired of lacking proper resources to do the job they were hired to do.
When something doesn’t work for a very long time, it usually seems that the best course of action is to change how we do it. In this case, if teachers have been woefully underfunded and paid too little for so many years, then why don’t we change the way we fund education? These complaints have been around for a really long time.
In the US, all public schools receive part of their funding form local property taxes. In some states it is as high as 69%, and in some states as low as 14%, but all receive some amount of their funding based upon the value of local real estate. The most significant secondary form of public school funding is through the general funds of state governments. In other words, school funding is heavily reliant upon the local economy. In Oklahoma, where funding per pupil has decreased by nearly 27% since 2008, the economy is extremely reliant upon the energy sector, which saw large losses the past few years, damaging not only direct tax revenues based on oil prices, but also generalized effects on the values of real estate in the area and the economy at large. Less money flowing through the economy means less taxes, and lower property values means less property tax for school funding.
The needs of education are close to a constant, but basing the funding for those needs on ever-fluctuating economies that are not a constant is always going to cause problems. The clearest example is one problem caused by property taxes that has existed for over 200 years. That is, when the infrastructure and properties age in the center of metropolitan areas, people move out to find newer places to live and work. Real estate values in inner cities decline while they increase in the suburbs. Funding for inner city schools then decreases, along with aging schools and more limited resources, and shifts away to newer areas. There has become a dramatic imbalance of resources between poor areas and wealthier ones.
This could be offset by less reliance on property taxes for schools and greater reliance on the general funds of each state, but this fails to still address many of the things at the heart of the issue. Funds are still a political football being kicked around by centralized government entities based on the whims of swaying political ideologies and agendas. Every few years, teachers must nearly entirely change the way they teach based upon new standards and methods adopted by governments that are mostly made up of people who have never taught school and have no experience with it. For the most part, they don’t see the effects of their efforts first hand. And, some factions want to increase budgets for schools, while others want to decrease it. There is never anything consistent for schools to rely upon for budgeting purposes. Funding available for any government entity, including schools, is not very predictable because of its reliance upon how well the economy is doing at large and whose political whims are being followed.
So, if public funding is never predictable, property values leave funding unbalanced, and politicians keep changing the way teachers must educate every few years without regard to how those things can really be implemented and be effective, then what does that leave us with? The only other sensible option is to privatize schools. All schools. There are lots of competing ideas, not only for how to fund schools, but also for how to effectively educate. Since it is impossible to agree, then it makes sense to let the market sort it out.
In a free market, funding tends to follow the best ideas and budgeting is more predictable in the private sector than the public sector because trends can be observed in what people prefer. Also, in a free market, those who are best at their jobs tend to make more money. Quality teachers are saints and deserve rewarding. Free markets reward people that work hard, do their jobs well, and produce highly desired results. In free markets, teachers will not only make more money, but they will also have adequate resources to perform their jobs effectively.
The same funding methods we have used for the past couple of centuries aren’t working. We keep running into the same problems over and over. If we privatize all schools, do the poor students who can afford less get left behind? Hardly. The money we provide that already subsidizes education for those that can’t afford it can be easily distributed to the best schools by allowing those people who receive it to spend it anywhere they please. And, there are many models that suggest some of the best education can sometimes, in whole or in part, be freely available through all sorts of free resources online. Education does not have to be expensive, it does not have to face a shortage in resources, and teachers do not have to be underpaid. If the old system doesn’t work, then it’s time to replace it with something else more effective.
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