Education in America: Oh Boy.
Our son just turned 3 1/2 and I dread making the decision for his schooling. Some might chuckle, thinking I have already missed the boat considering waiting lists these days for revered educational institutions. Both my wife and I are college graduates (that’s how we met) but she came through 12 years of public school in the suburbs of Philadelphia with over 600 hundred in her graduating class. Me, on the other hand, I had 12 years of catholic school in a rural community. Total graduating class: 72.
The more I read and the more teachers I speak with, the worse I feel. Parents are frustrated with teachers and administrators; teachers are frustrated with parents and administrators. Taxpayers are frustrated with increasing taxes.
I picked up a copy of Philadelphia Magazine at the grocery store last night since the cover story was about the best local high schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. After browsing the list and not feeling great about the high school our son will attend if we go public, I read the article “Where All the Children Are Above Average“. Oof. Charissa Stone doesn’t have a lot of supporters based on a sampling of the comment section, but I think the issue must be explored.
Sandy Hingston, the author, unfortunately spent the time of the article focusing on the blade of grass rather than the lawn. I would have liked to see the exploration of the larger issue at hand and how we can fix a broken education system. We might not walk away with the answer, but the discussion itself moves us in the right direction.
When I was in school, the cookie cutter approach was the way to teach. A few kids had to meet with specialists (limited to math, speech and reading) but that was about it. Now, more and more kids are requiring individual plans. The United States Department of Education puts the average class size at 20. Common sense would bring the question — how is it possible to independently teach every child based on their specific learning needs? 20 minutes per child would use up almost an entire 8 hour workday. If the blanket approach and individual approaches don’t work — or are simply not sustainable, where is the middle ground?
‘We have a special-ed child, and educating our child costs $250,000 a year. So you’ll have to include that in your budget.’ – from “Where All the Children Are Above Average” in Philadelphia Magazine
The ideal answer is what we have become accustomed to with the expansion of the internet– personalized results. Son needs two hours of tutoring? Done. Daughter needs a speech therapist? Done. Now, on to the funding part. Right now the average spend per pupil in the United States is $10,930 and increasing yearly. Layer on the fact we need to fund this at a time when education is in line for some severe funding cuts, makes this an arduous task. Clearly, having parents tell a district that it will cost $250,000 a year to educate their child is not reasonable and neither is ignoring the needs of educating our children (special or otherwise).
I don’t have the answer, but I do know we need to level set first, then move on to solution. Part of level setting will require being honest with ourselves and putting a number on what is a reasonable and fair cost when it comes to the responsibility of public education. Yes, the value of educating my child is priceless just like life itself, but where is the line between the financial responsibility of the state and my own responsibility? If we don’t draw a line somewhere, we will never move forward and our rudderless education system will eventually play out with catastrophic consequences on the global scale.
Now, where did I put that enrollment form?
Image courtesy of africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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