By Sofia Lynch
With the 2016 primary elections already on the minds of many Americans, so are the policies that they would like to see tackled by the candidates vying for their vote. The issue of higher education stands as a predominant topic voters consider when choosing a candidate. The severity of this issue is made evident by the existing $1.2 trillion student loan debt in this country. This rising number is hard to ignore, but it has cast a shadow on some of the concerns of the state of education at large.
School districts across the nation have experienced budget cuts, after budget cuts. According to The Associated Press (AP), schools are now experiencing teacher shortages in the wake of lack of funds and plentiful lay offs. AP quoted several administrators highlighting what was once an overly-populated, competitive field, now is one with positions going unfilled.
In California, the state that educates the most children, the number of teaching certificates issued has dropped by half in the past decade, according to AP. Teachers are faced with issues of their classes having miniscule funding, having their hours cut down to nothing, or having their position eliminated completely. Job security is not something that comes with being a teacher and that has become clear to once-aspiring teachers.
With my mother, best friend and grandparents all in the teaching profession, I have watched firsthand the stress of budget cuts, hour slashing and the general lack of gratification that comes with the job. With low budgets comes out-of-pocket purchases to keep your classroom running the way you want, however, with fewer hours comes smaller paychecks to support your contributions. Tie all that up with the bow of little to no appreciation received, it’s no wonder that this profession doesn’t look all too glamorous to the new wave of working age people.
This is where I see a fundamental issue in this country and how it values education. I hated high school just as much, if not even more, than the average Joe, but even I can see that the balance of power within institutions of education has become off kilter.
The most essential piece in the system of education is the teacher. Education began as one person passing on the skills needed to live and thrive to a pupil. Somewhere along the lines, the teacher went from being the only reason education could exist, to a helpless pawn in something more like a business.
Young children spend half of their early lives in a classroom. For this factor alone, society should want to make sure that teachers, the hands that mold the clay, are happy and satisfied in their professions. Teachers should be the axis which the world of schooling revolves around. They are the ones with the knowledge to give and the patience to give it – most of the time. Instead, there are teachers across the country given so few annual hours that they make less than a server or a dedicated McDonald’s worker.
There needs to be more of an effort poured into reinvigorating this field of work. Teachers deal with the youths of this country and thus have a hands-on opportunity to shape the next generations. Why give them such poor working conditions that it’s hard to keep motivation in their jobs, let alone apply for the job in the first place? Yes, they get summers off – something many resent the teaching workforce for – but often teachers spend their time off taking side jobs to make up for the little money they made throughout the year or taking classes to keep their certification up-to-date.
For the position they play in the future of society, it is unbelievable how little value we hold to teachers in this day and age. How can we expect people to continue to pour into a profession that has been shown nothing but disparagement? There needs to be a national change in thinking in regards to teachers and schools at large, as well as, a national change in the budget cuts and other policy changes that make this profession only more and more unappealing.