I recently read an op-ed on AlJazeera.com called . I was shocked to see some of the figures that were published based on the author’s research into California’s primary, secondary, and undergraduate educational systems. The focus of the editorial was not on the educational system in the United States as a whole but on California’s; I assume they chose this state because it is the most populous of states and if its happening in California, there’s a good bet that it’s happening all over the country (California seems to be a trend setter). I apologize in advance that this blog entry isn’t about my day or my experiences in Australia on this fine sunny day in the mid 20s. I just wanted to comment on this editorial because I felt strongly about it, and so should you.
According to the editorial, tuition and fees at the University of California’s ten campuses has increased 21% this year and students at one of California State University’s 23 campuses should see an increase in 9% over the next year. California’s lawmakers have cut around $1.5 billion from the state’s colleges and universities. Should the higher educational system be available to each of California’s citizens equally? With sever cuts, I agree with the author, accessibility to this education will be very limited as many people will not be able to afford the prices to attend. And due to these cuts, universities aren’t able to accommodate all of its admitted students equally. It looks to me that the system needs to add to the budget not cut it…
Teachers at the K-12 levels are feeling the pressure as well, like much of the county’s schools. When money is taken from the system or money is not being properly allocated to the needs of the schools to ensure student learning and engagement, teachers and students fall by the wayside. Without the right resources at school, teachers are overwhelmed with the number of students in their classes. As the number of students in a class goes up, the time teachers can allocate per student in the classroom per period goes down. Any decent teacher knows one can never have too much time to allocate to each student. I would love to have 5 minutes per student per period; wishful thinking since that would mean I would only have an average of 10 students in a 50-minute period. Currently at BSC, I average around 3 minutes per student per 72-minute period, not bad, but it could be better! You may know where I’m going with this; the more time allocated per student per period means…more money. But where do you get it? As a fiscal conservative, I don’t reason that heavy taxation is the solution, so where else do you get this funding?
Well, you’re going to have to take the money from an existing institution, right? Yep! So which one? The prison institution, I reckon! According to the editorial, spending on prisons has grown 1500% since 1980. Wait, let me get this straight, we are cutting billions a year on education but are increasing our spending on our prisoner population? Doesn’t make much sense if you ask me! California, according to the editorial, has built one university over the last 30 years, and in the same amount of time built 20 prisons. If you’re reading this and are sick to your stomach, I understand, but keep swallowing and hold it in because it gets worse.
The article goes further to talk about how much the state of California spends on each prisoner and each student. Each year, the state of California, spends $50,000 on each student, no, I meant prisoner. Wouldn’t it be nice if the state spent that much on each student; the opportunities would be endless! So how much does California spend on each student? A measly $8,667! Pardon mon français, but that’s bullshit, there is no excuse for this. Do we value our prisoners more than our students? Surely not…right?
I had to know more, so this evening after lawn bowls (we lost by the way), I came home to find what the prison population of the United States was. After inquiring, I found that if the prison population was all from one state, possibly the state of Lockup, the population would rank between New Mexico and Nevada, making it the 36th most populated state in the union! The United States currently houses 2.4 million prisoners, which is the largest prison population in the entire world. I know that each state doesn’t spend the same on it’s prisoners, but for this lets just imagine each prisoner cost $50,000 per year no matter what state they were from. My area of teaching is science, so I hope my math is right; it’s a whopping $120 billion spent on the prison population per year. Wow.
So how do we reallocate this money into the educational system? Well it isn’t like you can release murderers and rapists to prowl the streets. How about reevaluating non-violent crimes and their sentences? Do we really need to send non-violent criminals to prison? Could they be sentenced to house arrest? Would that be cheaper for the system? I don’t know, and I may never know, but it sure does seem like the priorities are not where they need to be in the United States.
The author of the editorial goes on to talk about the bailing out of banks and the funding for war. A agree with her comment that when it comes to banks and war, the government will gladly spend money, either to bail out or fund, but when it comes to education, it becomes a free for all. California alone has contributed over $52 billion to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m not an isolationist per se but I think we need to reevaluate our occupation of various areas of the world. It is scary to think that we may be on the verge of more war, especially with Senator John McCain recently urging US military action against the al-Assad regime’s forces, currently being used against the Syrian people. The article I posted last night showed the US media indicating a war is near with Iran as well (great article too if you get a chance). With the largest military force in the world, one can only assume that it isn’t cheap to be all over the world. I’m all for being a global citizen, but does it always require military force?
Where are our priorities? Shouldn’t we be focusing on what is needed in the United States? I can think of plenty of needs, but surely the education of our future generations is a priority to be added to the top of the list. I guess the government has little interest in a generation that can’t legally vote! IT SHOULD because as a teacher, I DO!