Last night, I sat as the Student Rep. on the Board of Education for the lat of their September meetings. Now, I’ve been to board meeting before, having covered them for my school’s media, and most of the time they are mundane and uneventful. While the big decisions on a national or state level typically are dramatic, the big decisions on a local level are usually quite boring. This was not the case last night.
Our district, like many districts (and institutions around the country), has found itself in a fiscal crisis. To prevent this situation from developing further, and recuperate some of the lost revenue, the administration proposed a slight increase in the tax levy.
One would think that this would be met with open arms, embracing it as a way to maintain performance in the schools. One would think that the board would see this as a way to make our environment a product of us, rather than us being the productive of our environment.
But that’s not what happened.
Without having to go into details, I’m sue that many people could guess how the argument went. Some wanted the levy to save programs; others wanted to lower the levy to alleviate tax burden. Gridlock for hours. A philosophical debate about the efficiency of government. Detailed analysis about the ability of administration ability to effectively spend money. Stalemate even further. The debate evolved, as it inevitably would, into a debate about conditions far beyond the realm of control of my district.
And the entire time I sat there listening to their arguments I kept thinking to myself, “It’s education. Is there such a thing as spending too much? As long as the people are willing to pay the tax, shouldn’t we give that to the students?”
The answer was obvious to me. Of course we should. Of course we should take as much money as we can for education. Of course we should spend hundreds of millions on schools. Of course we should spend tens of thousands of dollars per student. Education isn’t a Ponzi scheme; it’s a right. Education is the silver bullet. It’s the end all, be all. It’s what has gotten humanity to where it is, and it’s what will take us where we’re going.
Our schools should be palaces. Our teachers should be experts. Adequate shouldn’t be enough. Good shouldn’t be the goal. School should be an extravagance that every student, regardless of socioeconomic condition, is granted. Education should be the crown jewel of government spending and purpose. Our country is only as strong as the people who make it, and our people are only as strong as we can educate them.
Earlier that evening, the administration had shown statistics that showed that last year, a year with major cuts through the district, our school made less than adequate performance and progress. It seems that there is a direct correlation between what is spent on education and the performance of the students.
In this day and age when the globe can fit in our pockets, when debt problems in Greece affect market conditions in St. Louis; when competition for the jobs that we need is stiffer than it has ever been, do we have the inclination to sacrifice the next generation’s abilities to lead humanity to the next big thing for a few tax breaks? For years, there has been a debate in this country–in every state, county and district–about what the government’s role is in providing education. It’s high time that we come to realize that until every student has more than sufficient opportunities and preparations to do whatever they want to do in their life, we aren’t done yet. We haven’t done enough yet until that point is reached. How do we make ourselves better? How do we make our culture richer? How do we make our society stronger? We need a silver bullet, and we need it now.
Kevin Beerman is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. Beerman is a senior at Francis Howell North High School in St. Louis. He has worked with several organizations in the past, including the Red Cross, Salvation Army, The Mission Continues and other local organizations. In college, he plans on studying law and political science, and wants to pursue a career in politics when he is older.