lundi, octobre 09, 2006

My Number Four Wish for the 2006 Elections

This post is part of a series listing my ten wishes for the upcoming election. Each day I will post one wish starting with number 10 and working my way up to the wish I desire most. Because we should think globally and act locally, you’ll notice a Minnesota slant to my wishes. If you’re a progressive or a liberal or a left-wing nut job from another state, I hope your wishes come true too. And now, without further delay, here’s today’s wish…

4. The St. Paul Public Schools Referendum Passes (And Similar Referendums from Deserving Districts Pass too)

If TinyE's school was was eight blocks north of where it is, and 2 or so miles to the east, instead of getting $331 per pupil per year as a supplement for education, the school would get $833.

And look, I wrote about this recently, so I won’t write about it at length again*.

St. Paul Public Schools receive $331 per pupil per year in supplemental school funding. This is less than 1/3 of the amount per student in neighboring districts. When Mrs. Duf and I were shopping for kindergartens, we were blown away by the quality of the public schools in St. Paul. In fact, I entered the process with my heart set on sending TinyE to a private Quaker school near our home, only to find a public school I liked considerably more just 3 miles from our house.

As Mary pointed out in comments to my previous post on this subject, using private dollars to make up for deficiencies in public schools is a dirty little secret that is true in public schools all over America.

Schools with the means to do so hire additional staff to offer things like:

Physical Education
Computer labs
Science (elementary schools)
Teacher’s Aides
Custodial staff
Field Trips
Foreign Languages

And I’m old enough to remember a time when (except computer labs – ahem (oh, and foreign languages)) every school had these things.

But today, schools without easy access to parental support and community dollars tend to suffer. Our schools have parents volunteer as grant writers - writing up grants to get more money.

As a result, for right or wrong, I’m now convinced that schools succeed or fail at least in part because of where they are located. Parental involvement is also critical to a school's success. I know, I know, I'm master of the obvious.

We can’t claim to value education in America. We just can’t. Our teachers are underpaid, governmental investment in education, particularly when considered compared to other priorities, is a joke. We all know our schools are underperforming, and we all know that from one mile to the next there is potential for wild variations in per pupil funding amounts. We have an infrastructure crisis in our schools. We limit most schools to the basics and don't even try to fund things that used to be standard. Too many students have horribly outdated text books, or no text books for core subjects.

Corporate leaders, concerned about the state of education in America, have taken the initiative to try to effect meaninful change. Someone must take the lead. Too many elected officials have dropped the ball.

Around the world, countries who value education more than we do, are putting us to shame.

This referendum will take supplemental funding in St. Paul from $331 to $593 per pupil per year. This is still just over half of what some districts receive. But this referendum represents a chance to level the playing field for those schools that don’t have access to private support, and for those students who happen to go to school in St. Paul instead of in North St. Paul/Maplewood ($833) or, to make the point with greater force, in Apple Valley/Rosemount ($1,042).

*Never believe me when I promise brevity.