Piling on the stuff I wrote last night about Newt Gringrich, I had a little nugget that I had planned on using, but I couldn’t fit into what I ultimately wrote. Nevertheless, it’s worth sharing:
Public Investments in Children Matter. The amount of public investments in programs is strongly related to CWI values among states. Specifically, higher per-pupil spending on education, higher Medicaid child-eligibility thresholds, and higher levels of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits show a substantial correlation with child well-being across states.
I know this is an area of disagreement. For instance, shortly before Christmas, I posted what I thought was an innocuous statement on my Facebook page:
Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.
It was a throw-away line; like a lot of people, I was looking for that sort of irony that marks a typical Facebook status. Instead, I had my own Newt Gingrich moment. A friend’s response:
Like our government does every day?
I let it go at the time, if only because I was in the middle of the chaos that normally settles upon my household when my wife goes into hurricane-mode in Christmas preparation. Still, it actually merited a response. Yes, if you consider that I am a teacher. Yes, all the money the government spends now is for “next year’s money”. Surrounded by a classroom of 31 students, each of them trying to get a public education, I am definitely working with next year’s money.
It goes towards what disturbed me most about teaching colleagues, who should know better, deciding to turn against the best interests of their constituents, their students. (This is true when they ignore *who* a Newt Gingrich happens to be; this is true when they complain and whine about the poor kids in their classrooms or the fact that many of our parents speak a language other than English in their homes.) A public education is a government investment in our youngsters. It is next year’s money, and the money spent the year after that. I’ve always had difficulty wrapping my understanding around a teaching colleague’s belief that the government is wasteful spendthrift, and then decrying the lack of a new textbook to coincide with the recent state adoption of the new Common Core State Standards Initiative. We can’t be working in an industry that needs state spending in order to operate, then openly root for the state spending to be cut off.
In a roundabout way, my friend, in his own hope to be ironic, forgot what I did for a living. Even worse, both of us are Cal grads, and given that the investment in the UC was prioritized specifically so that he and I and others could benefit through the money spent on a state-sanctioned university system, then we are denying the same benefit to others that we ourselves were able to enjoy.
Heck yeah, in effect, I want the government to spend next year’s money for this year’s kids. As I type this, as our students are working in their Writer’s Workshop, lacking lined paper for their drafts because we have to wait until next week to order more, I am reminded about how the lack of investment in our youth will have far-reaching ramifications for these kids, as well as my own little girl, in addition to immediately impacting the short-term quality of the instruction I am able to deliver to them.
On a Facebook page, we throw away rhetoric in our choice to be ironic. Most of the time it’s funny, and I laugh, especially when it’s innocuous fluff. But sometimes it comes across as tragically shortsighted. How am I supposed to respond when I work in a profession dependent upon state revenues? Teaching was not something I chose to do so I could get summers off.
Once again, Jonathan Kozol:
Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.