Monday morning I took the Painter in for his kindergarten testing. The magnet school we'd like to get him in is all booked for this year. We can get on the waiting list for next year. The zoned school (one of the reasons we chose this neighborhood) is likewise all booked for the year. They're supported by a federal grant that mandates a maximum class size of 15. So, they'd like to bus him off to another school with class sizes around 30 (30! for kindergarten). Um... no thanks.
There are three schools in town with the mandated smaller class size. I called them both, to see if we could have him enrolled there for the remainder of this year. Apparently, the school district requires the local school to take him next year regardless. One of the other two low student/teacher ratio schools is similarly booked. I haven't heard back from the other.
We may just keep him out of kindergarten for the remainder of this year. It's upheaval enough, to move in the middle of the school year. I'd rather avoid the upheaval again, after a couple months of attending one school (crammed into an oversized classroom), of starting over at yet another school in town.
I think it's absurd the low priority my country (and compatriots) put on education. Constant headlines complain over the supposed profligacy of spending for education. Um... where? Sure, I'd be willing to accept that there is some waste, but I'd say none of it can be attributed to teacher's salaries. And it pales in comparison to the huge sums of missing or misappropriated funds in the military and foreign aid programs.
What we really need in this country is to double or triple the number of teachers (from Kindergarten through Graduate School) and significantly increase salaries along the way. Despite the arguments in this article, there is no problem with too many teachers, and there is no reason to believe that the pool of public and private funds is too low to both increase the ranks and increase their salaries. According to that article, a $10,000 across the board increase in salaries and benefits would amount to $40 billion. Put it in perspective: that's less than 10% of current annual U.S. military expenditures. That's 20% less than the "bridge funding" for Iraq & Afghanistan in the 2007 budget.
I think we could afford it. I think we have cause to shift our priorities.
If salaries and benefits (and public esteem for education) increased, there would be greater interest from a broader swath of potential teachers. There would be an increase in supply, as more and more college graduates considered teaching a worthy and rewarding profession, thereby allowing for greater competition (without cutting demand). I don't see any lack of competition or supply in higher education (if anything there is the opposite... but too little funding, too few positions).
It all comes down to this: increase funding for education. PERIOD!