The future hangs in the balance as republican governors and state legislators wage an epic battle against teachers, teacher unions, and education itself. With state budgets grossly underfunded, governors and legislators are looking for ways to balance them and educators have become the main focus. In some states student instruction make up almost, if not more, than 50 percent of state budgets.
Newly elected Governor Sandoval of Nevada unveiled a budget that includes a nine percent cut to K-12 and a 18 percent cut to higher ed. According to the Las Vegas Sun, the president of the University of Nevada Las Vegas held a faculty meeting and said, Â“ . . . cuts for UNLV would total $47.5 million and would need to be implemented by July 2012, so a plan for financial exigency would have to be prepared.Â” This is on top of $50 million the university has cut over the last four years.
The battle making national news is the one in Wisconsin. Not only does Governor Scott Walker want to gut education, he also wants to take away teachers right to collectively bargain for their contracts. The governor says public employees but when taking a closer look, only teachers are being robbed of this ability. The police and firefighters will still be able to collectively bargain.
Governor John Kasich of Ohio is working to get a similar bill through his legislature. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg is working to cut over 4,000 teaching positions. Governor Cuomo of New York is looking to cut $1.5 billion to school districts in the state.
No one is naÃ¯ve enough to suggest that changes must come. Yet it seems the Republican Party decides education is no longer important even though world ranking continues to fall. The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) looks at how 15-year-olds from around the world compare to each other. According to their study, Â“ . . . the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.Â” The study further states, Â“In Canada, 15-year-olds are more than one school year ahead of their US peers in math and more than half a school year ahead in reading and science . . .Â”
Among other statistics of note: 18 percent are not proficient in reading compared to 10 percent of Chinese students the same age, the United States is ninth lowest in high school graduation, and third highest in drop outs. The studyÂ’s conclusion is, Â“This is not to say that efforts should not be directed towards mitigating the short-term effects of the economic recession, but it is to say that long-term issues should not be neglected . . . These developments will be amplified over the coming decades as countries such as China and India raise their educational output at an ever-increasing pace.Â” The question to ponder is, in four years, what will we reap from what we currently sow?