Teachers describe the terrible state of American education


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But the administrators in the school and district kick in from their own salary to help cover the costs of basic supplies, right? I mean noone who makes close-to-or-above six figures would be so callous, so selfish, and so greedy as to expect their workforce to contribute 8-12% of their take home salary directly back into their job while not contributing themselves.

That would be a seriously topsy turvey world if I ever saw one.

(a very good friend of mine is a middle school teacher, she has stories)


The funny thing is the right doesn’t see that they are shooting themselves in the face in the long run. If you have a stupid uneducated population, then your country as a whole starts to slide. Once that happens, then no more high and mighty US and no more telling the rest of the world what to do.


elements of the right are heavily invested in vouchers to fund private, usually sectarian, schools with public money and other elements push for expanded rights of parents to homeschool students. many of them refer to public schools as “government schools” to express disapproval.


in my district–a mid-sized district in texas–the principals make about 25% more than the teachers while the superintendent gets about double our pay. the principals at my school spend their own money buying things for the campus when the budget runs out and they spend hours and hours fundraising for our campus. i probably spend about $500 a year for my classroom although i do get a few hundred a year from the district to split with the other 6th grade science teacher on our subject. it’s a crazy system we work under where we have to have the kids provide things like paper towels and kleenex for the use of the classroom. the list of required stuff the kids need to bring the first of day of school for the use of the classroom costs about $50. times the 700 kids on the campus and that saves the campus $35000 a year and we still run out of money before we run out of school year. a few years ago our governor, rick (oops) perry decided to withhold $5 billion from education to make sure our rainy day fund was full enough to bribe businesses to come to texas. as i say, a crazy system.


the voucher system always struck me as a, “we are all equal, but some of us are more equal than others” kind of racket. it is a great way of siphoning money from the most desperate districts which makes the job our hero-educators do even harder.


Not to say that US public education isn’t financed in the most intentionally dysfunctional way possible, and that schoolteachers aren’t grossly underpaid, but … audiobooks? snacks? colored paper?

The countries that are handily beating the USA’s educational scores year after year aren’t doing it on the strengths of their superior classroom electronics, papercraft skills, or junk food supplies. These amusements and playthings are tropes of the American educational culture; other countries educate their children quite well indeed without them.

Now, if we’re making the argument that social supports to American families are so terrible that teachers have to pay to provide students the basics of food and hygiene supplies, I won’t disagree, and it is a terrible indictment of our social policies. But then we’re not talking about “school supplies” in any sense.


perhaps i am a tad harsh. it’s just that $500 to someone that makes $40k a year is quite a bit different than $500 to someone making $55k. the fact that the school supplies burden is quietly being burdened by the lower paid tier just sticks in my craw :smile:

as an aside, when i was in high school in the 90’s i never had a teacher that didn’t have a second job. even as a younger japhroaig that struck me as deeply unsettling.


i knew someone would bring up items such as snacks and colored paper, and it really misses the forest for the trees.

the citizens here don’t–and shouldn’t–have line item veto on discretionary spending in education. do the students perform better if their blood sugar isn’t crashing? then snacks may be a prudent solution. do audio books help engage certain types of students, and excite them to read? that’s a great investment.

so i don’t think we should rush to pass judgement on the specific items, and trust that our teachers know what is best for their classes.


Why did you need that? I thought Perry prayed for it?


it’s a lot less expensive to pay for audiobooks for kids who are dyslexic or have visual impairments than it is to pay for an aid or a teacher to read to them. snacks, in my district, are generally apples or bananas and peanut butter crackers. for students staying after school for tutorials for testing and for smaller students who aren’t getting enough to eat at home snacks can make the difference between attention and hunger. as for colored paper, are you saying that asian and european students don’t make things in class with construction paper, scissors, and glue? what you call amusements and playthings are anything but.


Yeah, the best school systems stick developing minds in spartan concrete rooms without the outrageous luxury of colored paper.


I pay for all my wife’s printing and duplication needs. Our wonderful governor is ever so proud of himself for allowing teachers to spend their money on basic supplies without having to pay sales tax twice a year.

The main problem with public education is lack of money. Gee. Wonder how you fix that?


By taking more money away until they fail so spectacularly that public education shifts to private schooling, which, for the poor, means having the government pay corporations to factory farm their children’s educations the way the government pays private prisons to house the children who will turn to crime to make money since the terrible education they received won’t get them much more than a McJob, thus reinforcing the Right’s proclamations about “those people” and give them more excuses to blame “them.” And the libertarians will applaud this free market solution to education since they can afford to send their children to good private schools and then to good colleges. And the wealth gap in America continues to widen like some kind of a space or crevice that increases in size as found in someone else’s better simile.


Gee, I’m really glad we spent that 6 trillion dollars on Iraq and Afghanistan rather than funding education or fixing our crumbling infrastructure. sarcasm

To be fair, a lack of money isn’t exactly the problem. We don’t distribute the money evenly, so there are winners and losers. Mainly the poor are the losers. In the long-run though, that means we all are the losers. You know, because without educated citizens we’re going to fail badly.

Also, lets stop with state sanctioned lottery systems that are really a poor tax, and not a way to add money to the education system. Or rather its a stupid way to pay for education.


That’s exactly the case. I have teacher friends who buy their kids lunch, metro cards and fucking cloths. All out of pocket. The snacks serve a bunch of purposes. But its fairly common to send kids, particularly young ones, to school with a small snack to keep them fed and on task before or after lunch. Many (many) kids in our public schools can’t even afford that. The same teachers I mentioned above tell me about kids sent to school with a 50 cent bag of chips from the bodega to get them through the day. Their families can’t afford more, and these kids aren’t always registered for what’s left of the free lunch programs. The audio books are for kids who are physically (or mentally I suppose) incapable of reading a printed book. Once upon a time those kids would have had a special ed teacher/curriculum with a separate budget to account for that sort of thing. Increasingly these kids are rolled in with everyone else, or teachers take turns handling the job, and little or no additional funding is provided outside of existing classroom budgets. Construction paper, glue and glitter? Basic materials in early childhood education, and art curriculum as well. How else you gonna make hand turkey’s?


I dunno man the public schools in and around my home town are pretty well heeled. Less 100 kids per grade level in each one, national champion soccer and lacrosse teams, teenagers driving beemers to school, huge property tax base footing the bill, highly rated nationally, insane graduation rates, etc. Definitely “winner” schools (in NY too where educations is supposedly a priority). And they still have their students providing shit like toilet paper, and there’s been a lot of forced early retirement for non-union, pensioned staff in the last 2 years. From janitors to comptrollers.

Meanwhile in Alberta (Canada!) we have one of the most powerful teacher’s unions in North America, some of the highest paid teachers, and our students out-perform those in most of the rest of the world.

It’s kind of an odd coincidence…

(The sad thing is that there is still TONS of room for improvement. Governments never seem to prioritize the right stuff.)


I don’t think the problem with education is really about left or right. It’s about people who care about students and learning, and people who care about ideology and politics.

There are also liberal, poor and middle class parents who are happy for the opportunity for more freedom of choice in their kids’ education. Attacking the motivations of people who support vouchers and homeschooling is really no different than attacking the motivations of teachers unions.

Sweden’s been doing it for over 20 years. But I would think we’d need to have a more equally funded system than we do now in order for it to work here as well as it’s worked there.

The U.S. spends more per-pupil than all but 2 or 3 other countries. D.C. and New York City spend more per-pupil than any other country in the world. It’s not a lack of money that’s the problem, but rather the management of that money.

The only parents I know who send their kids to charter schools are liberal Democrats, and do so happily and gratefully, very satisfied with the education their kids are getting. There are lots of poor, middle-class Democrats all over the country who are very happy to have had the choice charter schools provide, as their local schools had, generation after generation, failed to provide a satisfying experience the to many of the families they served.

I believe deeply in public education and the responsibility we have to provide it. But I honestly think that even if we come to agreements on vouchers, charters, private vs. public, unions, taxes, tests, etc. - and we will never come to agreement on those issues - nothing will change. Nothing will change to improve the educational experience of our kids, because it all exists within, and relies upon, the present and traditional education paradigm.


I don’t disagree with the funding problem, that’s what I was alluding to (for parts of the US at least). School funding in many parts of the US is quite local, as in several districts per city. So if vouchers pull out of one side of a city to another it means:

  • the lower tier school becomes worse on standardized tests
  • the lower tier school gets less revenue (with the same amount if staff)

It isn’t that student mobility is bad, it is that the us system for funding schools is draconian.

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