Education For Living, Not Just Working
Funding For Our Schools
Everyone in a family-driven community wants their children to obtain an education they can be proud of, and that truly prepares them to become good members of public society. How can these simple yet important goals be accomplished in an outdated education system which is underfunded, mismanaged, and undemocratic?
The way we fund our public schools – via local property taxes – is a recipe for inequity, and creates future generations who, despite walking the same hallways and taking many of the same classes, will have very different experiences as they try to navigate the adult world. More material wealth in a student’s family means more access to extracurricular instruction and activities, and subsequently leads to more opportunities for a promising future; meanwhile, students who come from poorer households are more likely to drop out of school, engage in petty crime, and ultimately end up in prison. In short, the wealthier students get more “bang for their buck” from public education than their more impoverished peers.
This inequitable revenue policy also affects salaries for both licensed and classified staff in our public schools. On paper, teachers appear to make a pretty decent gross annual salary – an average of around $58,000 in Oregon – but when you factor in taxes, employer healthcare costs, housing (monthly rent or mortgage), yearly expenditures on classroom supplies, and unpaid overtime hours, the reality becomes way less glamorous. What’s more, because school district budgets are determined by property tax revenue, two teachers with equal amounts of experience, who work in opposite ends of the state, can end up earning completely different salary amounts.
Rethinking School Management
But funding, I would argue, is only part of the problem. Public schools are supposed to be institutions where all children learn about the ideals of freedom and democracy; but there is a difference between learning about freedom and democracy, and actually practicing it. In our education system – which, structurally, has changed very little in the last hundred years – decisions are made at the top and forced downward, from the Department of Education, to the superintendent, all the way down to the teachers.
We place an enormous burden on our teachers to provide an education to our children, yet they have almost no say in the curriculum they incorporate into their lessons, nor the day-to-day policies in their school buildings. Most districts in Oregon have teacher unions to help address these issues, but union bargaining power throughout the U.S. has become steadily neutralized since the Reagan Administration.
A Curriculum of Resiliancy
We all know just how complex the adult world can be to navigate, even in times of relative social and economic stability. We need to ensure that every child is adequately prepared for living as an independent adult, not just as a consumer and a laborer. Below are a few examples of what I believe should be learned in our schools:
- basic gardening and agricultural skills
- tax filing and utility bill paying
- home economics
- civic engagement in our communities
Our education system is in desperate need of a massive overhaul. As your representative in Salem, I will fight relentlessly for a public education structure worthy of the 21st century.