In the News

I needed a good idea for this month’s column, so I did what any red-blooded American would do… I Googled education facility news. What topped the list was a number of stories on failed bond issues and waning public support for education.

Although not a new idea, a story in USA TODAY talks about how, nationwide, financially struggling schools are increasing the volume of advertising that children see in order to fill the school’s money gap. School administrators are saying that with a public unwilling to adequately fund K-12 education, they’re obligated to find new ways to keep teachers in classrooms.

In another story, posted in Reuters, Louisiana is taking steps to privatize public education. This bold experiment will have the state shift tens of millions in tax dollars out of the public schools to pay private industry, businesses owners and church pastors to educate children.

Starting this fall, poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools. The following year, students of any income will be eligible for mini-vouchers to pay private-sector vendors for classes and apprenticeships. Officials have not estimated the price of these programs, but expect to save money in the long run. Whether those savings will materialize is unclear.

If you think we are alone in our challenge to educate our kids, think again. This story appeared in an international news report from Manila, where their department of education (DepEd-9) implemented a K-12 program this school year. The program consists of the mandatory inclusion of kindergarten in the six-year elementary education curriculum, four years of junior high school and two years of senior high school.

This program, and explosive population growth, added one million students to this year’s public school enrollment. Despite the construction of nearly 20,000 new classrooms in metro Manila, the schools are still scrambling to find a way to accommodate students. In one case students attend school in three shifts. Grade one students that are part of the first shift attend school from 6 a.m. through 10 a.m. The last shift runs from 2 p.m. through 6 p.m. At another school, the hallways house three classes, using blackboards as dividers. An area high school chose two shifts with 60 students per class. And, according to their department of education, “this year’s nationwide classroom shortage is estimated at 48,000, a drastic improvement over last year’s shortage of 66,000.”

Are we making progress? Is it happening fast enough? Are we doing the right thing for our kids? Losing a generation of children while we get our act together cannot be an option.