Last month, I contacted State Sen. John Douglas to relay my concerns about this crisis. I suggested exploring other sources of revenue, such as an increased cigarette tax, which, according to an article last month in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, many states are using to close the funding gaps.
Sen. Douglas said he does not support higher taxes but thinks the way to get out of recession is to encourage business and not increase taxes, because [the] government stepping in and taking money for, in many cases, foolish and reckless programs accomplishes nothing.
At last count, there are at least 40 other states ranked higher educationally than Georgia. What's foolish and reckless is to suggest that by spending far less, we will be able to accomplish much more. It's waving a white flag in the face of our children, as if to say: We give up. You're on your own now.
These cuts are being made with one goal in mind: getting the left side of the business ledger to match the right. Making the cut process public would have been largely unproductive, resulting in a lot of angry people getting together to make their case why their jobs should be saved. They should have that right. But misguidedly yelling at Dr. Whatley and the board is like yelling at the store clerk who has nothing to do with setting the price point.
You see, voices outside of education continue to make its most important decisions. Suggestions like yours, to eliminate administrator salaries, are twisted logic. Newton High does have six assistant principals. Newton High also has the largest enrollment of the three high schools and has been overcrowded almost every year I've taught in it. We need them.
My suggestion is this: take our legislators to task for the mess they are creating. If they do nothing, vote them out and get someone who will be a forward thinker. While were discussing cuts, do you think we need 236 legislators to disagree two months out of the year and get paid a teacher's yearly salary (including per diems) for it?
For teachers, substitute pay is gone, meaning teachers are covering classes for one another and getting burned out. Contracts have been delayed so long that finding a job in the profession at the same time college graduates and other displaced veterans are looking will be an improbable search.
For those blessed enough to continue teaching, there is legislation on the table to reduce employer retirement contributions to half a percent, freezing teacher salaries, charging educators for all health benefits, eliminating RESAs, and a slew of other offenses too many to name. Even for the faithful, this is a tall task, especially when all anyone wants to discuss is how many of you to fire. The system is broken and needs to be fixed.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. If you let us fight this battle alone, one way or another, it will come to your doorstep and you will want someone to help fight for you.