We need to do a much better job at educating and preparing our young people for adulthood. The minimum that we must do is to provide the opportunity for our young people to be successful. We need to invest more, note less, in our schools and teachers. After school programs should be offered at every school, and if parents need help--then they should be able to attend as well.
If you have read my crime section, then youíll recall that the above paragraph is repeating some of what I said. In this section, Iíd like to expand on some points previously made, plus discuss college education.
Let me start with teachers. How do we attract better teachers to work in our schools? Pay them. Itís that simple.
We live in a competitive, market driven economy. People are going to follow the money. If schools fail to pay competitive salaries, then many of our brightest people are going to pursue careers other than teaching.
Iím not suggesting we donít have very bright, talented teachers now. We do. Most of them arenít in it for the money. I went into teaching right after passing the CPA exam in 1990, and stayed with it because I never experienced any job that gave me more pleasure. Iíve learned from many excellent educators who simply enjoy teaching, and interacting with young people.
We could easily lure more talented people into teaching by paying them good salaries. It really is important because we want the best for our kids. Teaching is where it starts in the schools.
Politicians like to say what Iíve just said because itís popular to say it. Once an election is over, though, teachers are often forgotten by them. More often then not, the gains teachers get in salary and benefits are made after the threat of a strike and pressure put on school boards by active parents.
In fact, some politicians do a complete about face when it comes to supporting teachers --- i.e. Governor Gray Davis. He talked the good talk during his campaign, but in recent budget talks his office has sought increased class sizes and a freeze on hiring teachers.
After school programs are also essential if we are to offer kids the best opportunity to be successful. Shouldnít a kid whoís struggling with math or reading or anything else during regular school hours have the alternative of staying in a school setting and getting perhaps more one-on-one attention?
If you remove the alternative, many academically struggling children lose hope and just donít catch up to the levels expected by the state and just donít graduate. If a teenager doesnít graduate, then obviously the prospects for getting a good-paying job diminish.
Parents often are very willing to assist their children, but lack in the fundamental skills themselves. Therefore, having an after school program in place is needed. Iíd even go a step further by encouraging parents to attend an after school program as an alternative to community adult schools. Why should a parent have to go to one place, and a child another if it both want help and prefer getting it at one location?
Now, for the schools themselves, every school from elementary to high school should have current textbooks and enough computers to support at least have one computer lab. Classrooms should be well maintained with up to date chalkboards, overhead projectors, desks, chairs, etcÖ.School buildings should not be falling apart.
Our government leaders should be monitoring schools regularly to make sure schools have what they need and are being run properly. All too often politicians visit schools just for photo ops in an election season.
If a school is overcrowded, our leaders need to push to build new schools. We also have to continue to push for lower class sizes. Common sense tells you that teachers will be more effective with a group of 15-20 students in a classroom as opposed to 25-40.
If we can dramatically raise the quality level of our public schools by adequately paying our teachers, and place students in an environment conducive to learning then this debate about public vs. private will grow quiet.
Now, I can understand the desire by many parents to put their kids in private schools. They want for their children a better learning environment, and in some cases, a place where itís safer. Democrats have typically been opposed to school vouchers, ignoring the fact that many parents want them. I say give the people what they want.
I hate to agree with the Republicans on anything, but I agree with them in that parents should have an alternative if the local public school is failing to adequately educate its children. Parents should not be faulted for wanting better for their children, and the government should support them, and that means with school vouchers if thatís what the majority of people want.
If the government makes it burdensome for parents who opt to place their kids in private schools, then public schools have less incentive to improve. Making it affordable for parents to put their children in private schools by allowing them to use vouchers will force public schools to raise the quality of what they have to offer to compete. Just like with private schools, public schools get more money when students enrollment is higher.
Supporting the idea that each child should have the opportunity to learn and become successful should never be about politics. Thereís many ideas floating about on how to make things better. What bothers me is when people lose sight about whatís right and best for our children. Thatís where our focus should always be.