If there ever was a time to question the priorities of the United States it is now. Massive unemployment, political partisanship and ongoing debate as to why the financial system collapsed have riddled Washington. However a leading indicator of what our country has evolved into can be found in the allocation of how we spend money.
It is a hard sell for anybody to claim that we invest in our future at a respectable rate seeing that one of the first sectors of our lives to receive less funding is our education system.
Not one word about how our national budget is set up makes news coverage and yet it clearly defines our priorities as a nation. Obama even declared in his state of the union address that the only thing untouchable in his budget would be defense.
If we were to cut our defense budget in half, it would still be more than any other country in the world. As a percent of GDP spent on education, America ranks 37th in the world, behind countries like Cuba who tops the list at 18 percent.
A mere stimulus of sorely needed funds is not the only thing that the education system needs in this country, specifically California, but a more comprehensive measure of new accountability standards to try and improve the system.
In particular, the teachers’ union power has grown to an uncontrollable level. The basic notion that an employee has near job security with regard to productivity after two years is laughable. What other sector of jobs secures their employees to that extent? Even more perplexing is that this specific job sector revolves around mentoring and expanding the minds of children.
Unfortunately in California, Governor Schwarzenegger consistently cuts education funding, leaving school districts with tough decisions on who to retain and who to pink slip.
What’s more unfortunate is the presence of a mega-union that blocks any talk of firing a teacher who is tenured, independent of whether or not they are performing at an acceptable level.
Naturally the teachers who are first to go are the new faces on campus that decided to teach.
From a business model perspective it doesn’t make sense to fire creative, energetic people to stave off lawsuits from firing teachers who underperform because job security is not a factor for them. With a lack of guaranteed funds, school districts shy away from well-educated teachers because they are higher on the pay scale.
Of course these problems are not politically popular to take on because no politician will challenge the teachers union in fear of being labeled anti-education, when of course it is the exact opposite, not to mention the teachers union has strong ties with the Democratic Party. But it has come to a point where realities must trump the politics of Washington because if the numbers are correct we are going to have uneducated, unemployed people whose only hope in the job force is to grab a gun and go to war.
Kevin Garrity, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.