Our Enemies Never Rest
The '65 Percent Solution' is a Deception That Will Hurt ESPs
The French military has a saying: "The enemy never sleeps." As a school custodian living in a small town, it's hard for me to understand why I have an enemy that never sleeps, never apologizes for being wrong, and has never even met me. But apparently I do. So do all education support professionals (ESP).
First Class Education is a little known group based in Washington D.C. They sponsor national drives that are anti-public education, pro-voucher, and anti-union. In particular, they support the "65 percent solution."
A False Promise
Here we go again. Like No Child Left Behind and TABOR (Tax-payers Bill of Rights), we are dealing with a sweet-sounding title given to an education issue, this one also being hawked by smooth-talking sales people. They are saying that the 65 Percent Solution will not cost taxpayers a single extra dime.
Well, it won't, but the cost is much greater. These pitchmen don't disclose the negatives of cutting support services. You cannot fund education by robbing Peter to pay Paul.
This so-called solution demands that 65 cents of every education dollar be spent in the classroom. First Class Education and other similar groups are calling for this proposal to be mandated in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by 2008.
In-the-classroom spending includes teacher salaries and benefits, instructional supplies and materials, computers, athletics, and the cost of paraprofessionals who provide some instruction to students. It does not include libraries and librarians, media centers, technicians, counselors, school nurses, bus drivers, food service, transportation, plant operation and maintenance, administration, security, and teacher training. That's a long list of ESPs.
Classroom spending does not include any additional funding. It is to be funded by dollars redirected from the essential services as stated above. Because some schools will find it necessary to make budget cuts under this mandate children will suffer. For example:
Schools could be forced to cut internet services, and services of computer technicians
Schools could be forced to reduce library services
Children could lose the benefits of having nourishing meals
Students could lose security services
Students could lose the guidance of counselors
Children could lose some transportation services
Students and staff alike could feel the pain of a reduction or loss of school nurses
While attending the 2006 National Education Association ESP Conference in Philadelphia, I was re-introduced to Benjamin Franklin. His name is everywhere in that city. And rightly so. I learned that when faced with a difficult decision, his philosophy was to look at all facets of the issue and make a list of the positives and of the negatives. He would then weigh one against the other.
I think Ben would easily see that funding classroom activities by making budget cuts in support services and ESP staff is nonsense. Not only is this solution too simple but it has far more negatives with nary a positive.
So, what can we do? ESPs should contact their legislators, students and parents, and civic groups. We need to inform them about how these mandates would hurt their schools and the education process.
While the enemy may hope that these mandates drive a wedge between teachers and ESP, the issue may in fact draw us closer. After all, we now have a common enemy in this battle. The definition of union is, "to join together." The antonym is, "to separate." We cannot allow this movement to even begin to cause a separation among school employees. We must stand up, unite, and fight the restless enemy!
(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.
Dave Arnold: This school custodian and former Illinois Education Association ESP of the Year is a published poet. But most Association members know him best from the editorials -- Dave's View --