Cutting the Future to Make the Present Look Better

Back to the continuing budget mess here in the overly-large school district.

The superintendent and others have been holding meetings with employee groups and community members (and distributing poorly worded surveys) to get suggestions on what programs and people should be cut to make things balance financially.

However, he’s asking the wrong question.

Instead the discussion needs to be framed around what we are all willing to pay for.

Just about anywhere you go in the US, it’s pretty much a political given that no elected official would even talk about raising taxes.

And around here, they would likely also be tossed out at the next election for suggesting that schools, or anything else, are more important than adding more asphalt and concrete for people to drive on.

Given those constraints (more like a straightjacket), the larger community should, instead of talking about cuts, be addressing the very difficult question: what will you pay real money for?

Do you want full-day kindergarten? Do you really believe art and music programs are essential or are they just a frills?

Will you pay for the training and support necessary to keep “well-qualified” teachers in every classroom or is that just something we can only afford during good times?

Is technology really a priority or is all that talk about the “future” and “21st century skills” nothing more than nice sounding decorations for political speeches?

Because in many ways, this money discussion is all about the future.

And that that brings me to the title of this post, which is stolen from a recent edition of the Business Week cover story podcast.

In that program a reporter makes the observation that, during economically rotten times like we have now, corporations are “cutting the future” through drastic reductions in their research and development budgets.

We do the same thing as a society with public education.

We slice things that will make future classrooms better – teacher training and technology being prime among those – in order to make administrators and politicians look good now.

So, maybe the bottom line question that needs to be asked about the education budget is: what are you willing to cut from the future to make the status quo look better?

I wonder how all those folks who keep sending me political crap mail and want my vote tomorrow would respond.

Probably not the way I would.

2 thoughts on “Cutting the Future to Make the Present Look Better

  • November 3, 2009 at 9:30 am
    Permalink

    There’s another question lurking under this conversation.

    Do you believe the government can be used for good?

    I believe that sometime in the 1980s (Ronald Reagan’s acceptance speech?) a dangerous philosophy took root in American politics. That government is the source of problems (this is fundamentally different from the historically conservative view that limited government is the best form of government).

    If you believe that government is the problem, how much are you going to care if your (public, government run) schools start falling apart? That just enforces your already held view.

    Reply
  • Pingback: Question 35 of 365: How should we react to budget cuts? – Learning is Change

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