Friday, January 13, 2012

My Secret Shame

I've got this nasty little secret: I love to pay taxes. Sales tax. Property tax. Income tax. I don't mind. There are two reasons for this bizarre behavior: First, I have almost always ended up getting money back for the taxes I paid over the course of a year. I generally pay too much, so the government pays me back. Secondly, for the past fifteen years I have worked at a job that is paid for by taxes. When the government starts rattling that big empty can asking for more dollars for things like public education, I feel good about how they are looking out for me.
Until we have that meeting at our school site about the next year's budget. There may have been a time when teachers and principals waded through buckets of cash and tried to figure out what to do with all that money, but that hasn't been the experience I have had. I came in on a wave of change when there was still some tension about contract negotiations. Cost of living raises happened and my union was able to squeeze the district for additional bumps every so often.
Not any more. One of the ugly realities about education is this simple equation: If you do well, you get less money. A school in program improvement will get more funds than one that has brought up their scores and shown that they can achieve more with less. So that's what we get. The initial response is that if we continue to fail, we continue to get the maximum amount of money, but we also run the risk of being closed or consolidated. We do our best and we get less. Since I started at this school, we have lost our librarian, our teachers' aides, our music teacher. Our psychologist is here two days a week as is our school nurse. Our bilingual clerk has been cut to a part time position. We don't have an assistant principal. A lot of schools in our position have fund raisers to pay for the holes in their budgets. At our school we tend to take up collections for families who need help. We can't expect our community to give the school money they don't have. What do we do? We make do with what we have. And we continue to do our job: teaching kids.
I love to pay taxes.

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