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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Budget cuts for schools and tax breaks for millionaires

Somebody told me the reason they were apathetic about the districts budget crisis was because they were dissatisfied with the product our schools put out. I have long been frustrated with the inaction the public has shown towards schools budgets cuts but finally I had something I could wrap my mind around. I disagree with it but I can put my mind around it. I however still struggle with Governor Rick Scott’s proposal of budget cuts for schools and tax breaks for millionaires.

It made me wonder why Jacksonville’s education system has been struggling.

Kids that live in poverty don’t do as well in school as their more affluent peers. About forty percent of our kids in Jacksonville live in or just above poverty. Poverty is the number one quantifiable reason kids do poorly in school. It’s not an excuse it is a fact.

The family unit has broken down, even good caring parents are overwhelmed and the kids from families who have abdicated their responsibilities at best get lost in the shuffle or worse are in real trouble. Schools can only do so much; they have kids less than a fifth of the time.

Our education leaders at least here in Jacksonville lost their way. They became enamored with the dedicated magnet schools and thought they could duplicate that success everywhere despite the fact everywhere didn’t have the same kids or could play by the same rules. They decided everyone would go to college and practically did away with the teaching of the arts and trades and the mission of education changed from creating well-rounded kids ready for college or the work force to creating a generation of kids that could regurgitate answers on a test.

Then there is the test, the F-CAT in my opinion has been the biggest detriment of all to education. Even if I give the creators the benefit of the doubt and said it had a legitimate purpose it has since perverted education. Friends, that’s all we do now, it is all F-CAT all the time. Plus standardized tests have become big business. The Bush family and others got rich off it and continues to do so. This new senate Bill 736 the teacher improvement bill is all about testing and is going to cost billions in unfunded mandates for school districts to implement. Education reform such as the F-CAT is not about what is best for the kids; it’s about what friend or benefactor of a politician can get rich or richer.

I can put my head around not supporting education because you don’t believe the product being put is a quality one but at the same time you have to look at the causes that have led education to being where it is.

Then there are some other things you should know. Thousands of teachers show up every day with their sleeves rolled up and sacrifice so much. Tens of thousands of kids come to Jacksonville’s schools to learn and do so and there are amazing things going on everywhere and not just at the magnet schools but at our “struggling” schools too.

I have many issues with the way the DCPS district is run but the answer is to fix our problems not further erode the viability of education which is what massive budget cuts will do. Which is also what charter schools, merit pay and vouchers will do as well. In fact the only reform proven to work, smaller class sizes is on the chopping block and the reason is because nobody in the private sector has figured out how to make a buck off it.

I can get my head around not believing in the product but I can’t get my head around giving massive tax breaks to the rich and corporations while slashing school budgets. Let’s at least share the sacrifice and close the five billion in tax loopholes before we try and not fix our budget problems on the backs our public children.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher

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