Thursday, August 20, 2009

Unacceptable conditions in the schools

I met with a group of teachers in Jamaica Plain yesterday to talk about my thoughts on education and to get their input on the state of the schools. What I heard made me angry and sad.

We talked for quite some time about the lack of commitment of the administration to provide the resources the schools need. Teacher after teacher talked about the poor quality of the textbooks, the lack of textbooks, the lack of copying paper and facilities, the cutting of teaching jobs and programs. They described being ostracized for bringing up issues or suggesting alternative ways of doing things. They described children who had been passed along the system who couldn't do fractions when they got to Algebra 2. One Latin school graduate talked extensively about how bad her writing skills were when she got to college, and how her professor said to her after reading her first paper "you went to public school didn't you?". Appalling.

As we were going over figures and I asked them for their help in 'finding the money', one teacher bluntly said "they are stealing".

The numbers don't add up. We are spending $15,000 per student ($800 million/55,000 students). If you have a class with 25 students that is $375,000 per class. Say you have two teachers for each classroom at a $100,000 salary ($65,000 plus benefits just to be very generous). That still leaves $175,000 per class for overhead and administration. It just doesn't add up. [Actual figures with grants etc. are even more outrageous, I'm just being conservative]

I hope I made a few converts yesterday, and if you get a chance talk to a local teacher. You will find that they want to be part of the solution, that they want good schools, and they are willing to do what it takes. They are just looking for the leadership and the care to make it so. They are not pleased with the politicians wanting to bring in more Charter schools, while not taking the time to visit the schools themselves to try and solve the problems.

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