The last few weeks have been filled with headlines about the Republican Convention, party platforms, women’s rights, and “forcible” and “legitimate” rape (What? Seriously?). One of the poster boys for some of these stories has been Missouri Rep. Todd Akin. For anyone who has followed him with regularity, his comments should come as no surprise. The man lacks humanity, compassion, and understanding….this is the same elected politician who has continually pushed an agenda that includes getting the Federal government to stop financing the National School Lunch Program altogether. Forget the fact that according to Share Our Strength, a majority of teachers surveyed said that students come to school hungry because they are not getting enough to eat at home – this program and others like it have tremendous benefits for kids. But to guys like Akin, it’s all about a bottom line based on numbers and nothing else.
A few facts for Akin and his budget buddies to consider:
· ¼ of US children have chronic health conditions related to diet
· 22% of US children lived in poverty in 2010
· ½ of US children get no early childhood education
· 14% of US adults can’t read
Since June 2009, the US economy has lost 300,000 local education jobs, and food assistance programs related to school lunches have seen huge cuts to their budgets. Here in New Jersey, our governor has been at war with the teachers union since his election while claiming he believes in teachers. Of course, increasing class size, freezing or cutting salaries, and refusing to fund educational programs while stating that money doesn’t matter, doesn’t demonstrate much of that “belief” in those same teachers.
It’s easy and sadly simplistic to point a finger at teachers and say, “they make too much money.” That they “need to do more with less” That’s a common theme guys like Christie and Akin and Paul Ryan like to champion, but it fails to recognize the value of teachers and the impact each teacher can make in a kid’s life. Almost anyone can find it in themselves to teach a class once. Doing that day after day, week after week in ways that consistently engage kids is the tough part. And one of the most valuable things teachers do every day. We can all remember that teacher who made a difference in our lives – the one who encouraged, supported, believed, and even kicked our ass because they saw potential. I don’t remember parents when I was in school saying that those teachers were overpaid the same way nobody ever says doctors and nurses are overpaid when you’re laying on a table in the ER. If you listen to the budget droids in Washington and our state capitols – the same guys who see numbers like the kid in The Sixth Sense saw dead people – teachers are overpaid and over valued. Guess we value business hucksters and corporate shills who outsource products and jobs more than the people who hold our children and our future in their hands.
As a country, we need to make tough choices to balance the budget and reduce the deficit, but cutting investments in education and programs that provide related assistance for low income families isn’t one of those choices.
In a nation that can’t even agree on the necessity of providing healthcare for all its people, agreeing on some kind of policy for education is a lot to ask.
But no strategy for education isn’t really a plan.
And while I’m at it, special thanks to: Agnes Armao, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Feder, Mr. Rouse, and Miss Rittenberg (who kicked my ass repeatedly throughout grade school). You guys made a difference, even if I didn’t know it back then.