The other day CNN.com posted a video and short article about an elementary teacher in Texas who spends between $2,000 and $3,000 per year on classroom supplies to ensure that her students have everything they need in order to thrive.
If this was an isolated case it’d be nothing but an overly motivated teacher going above and beyond. However, if you talk to teachers regularly you will quickly learn that spending their own money just to be able to do a great job is, unfortunately, rather normal. For somebody who grew up in a different educational environment this is rather disturbing to say the least.
While attending school in Germany, my teachers didn’t have to dig into their own funds to purchase books or other supplies they needed for the classroom. Everything they needed was supplied through the school via the state’s Department of Education funding. It seems like schools and teachers in the US are, unfortunately, grossly underfunded and constantly struggling. My daughter’s school last year asked for paper to be donated to the front office so they could continue printing and making copies for the rest of the year, and our school’s PTO held several fundraisers to allow teachers to purchase books.
How is this acceptable to any of us? How can we live in a society that doesn’t pay its teachers what they deserve, and is okay with schools not having enough funds for the basics? What else is worth investing in if not the education of our children? They are our future and their shaping should be a top priority, not an often neglected yet necessary evil.
In times when Sierra Vista’s priorities are on new city entrance signs to emphasize our “brand”, when Bisbee is knee-deep in debt, and the state’s interests are clearly not on our teachers or our children’s education I can’t help but wonder what kind of message this sends to our teachers and more importantly, to our children. My hat is off to those folks who follow their passion regardless of the financial obstacles. Talk about dedication! Nobody bats an eye at the millions and millions the taxpayer dishes out for every mini vacation our high-ranking officials take as often as every weekend, yet the thought of a tax increase to sufficiently fund our schools and adequately pay our teachers — our future! — seems unfathomable. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves if our priorities are really that out of whack.