Saturday, February 23, 2019


Collaboration versus brinkmanship.
When I walked into my school on the day before I was to join the picket line outside it, I reflected once again on the sad nature of politics. Why, I wondered, aren't the teachers, parents and administration united on this struggle to put funding into our district? Our superintendent assures us all that she believes that teachers need to be paid more, and anyone who has walked the hallways and playgrounds of East Oakland knows that there is plenty of money to be spent on bringing facilities up to twenty-first century standards.
And yet somehow we stand across this gulf of the debate about how those funds should be disseminated and managed. I keep flashing on the bumper sticker from the 1970s  that read, "

It Will Be a Great Day When Our Schools Get All the Money They Need and the Air Force Has to Hold a Bake Sale to Buy a Bomber." So while teachers keep leaving our district in waves when they realize that their dreams of being the teacher who watches kids grow up around them while filling their heads with useful knowledge, educators fight over scraps.

From where I am sitting, I can poke and prod at the finances of my district over the past twenty-plus years. At no point was there a discussion that went like this: "You know, I think we may be spending too much on the kids. And those teachers are getting rich, so we really don't have to worry about their salaries." Instead, money has been thrown at programs and consultants in hopes that some magic could be found to break the cycle of underachievement and overspending. 
So here we stand, glaring across the bargaining table, hoping that the scraps that the state and federal budgets will somehow fill the gap between getting by and just getting by. As a nation, we are spending more than fifty-four percent of our money on our military: almost six hundred billion dollars a year. The sliver of that pie that goes to education is seventy billion. Which is why we need a bake sale or two to get us to the next bargaining session. 
Here we are, staring down other educators, arguing over ever smaller pieces of that pie. I am wondering why we aren't working together to figure out how to get the whole thing.  

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