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State budget priorities unbalanced and unfair

Kyle Shook

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In the shadow of the massive protests in Egypt that unseated a president, the shot seems to have been heard around the world.

In Madison, Wisconsin, thousands of public employees (many of them teachers) came out in protest of plans by the Governor to limit collective bargaining, basically unplugging labor unions.

We have seen a similar issue facing Georgia. Public school teachers (as well as other public employees) are taking furlough days right and left, a money saving tactic that unethically compromised their contracts in the middle of the read and lowers their annual pay (although they are still expected to come into work out of the goodness of their hearts).

I certainly understand that in a recession, we are all expected to make sacrifices. What irritates me is the fact that the same establishments that are preaching endlessly about the necessity of public employees to shoulder the weight of “hard times” are the same ones who insist on extending tax cuts to the many of the wealthiest people on the planet.

As a child raised by two teachers, I spend every holiday and occasional weekend visit home hearing my parents talk about “fund saving” strategies (such as pushing six class periods into one day and laying off new teachers) that are making Georgia educators want to rip their hair out.

Of perhaps more concern to college students is the threat to state scholarships such as HOPE and the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant, the funds of which are drained for money. Yet the solution, according to our lawmakers, is not in tax hikes for those who can afford it.

I’m certainly not advocating that we end tax breaks for those with 12 mansions in various states and make CEOs CHOOSE between spending the summer in the Swiss Alps and going on December cruises to the South China Seas instead of the usual both.

My eyes water simply thinking about it. However, I cannot fathom how the fat that must be trimmed has to come from public programs (such as education and health services).

Additionally, the laws of the state leave teachers helpless in fighting these “reformations” and can either accept unfair and ridiculous budget cuts or be terminated from their jobs.

Our great state of Georgia (which has made a fine living protecting the interests of wealthy white people over the past two centuries) ranks only ahead of North Carolina in the number of union members in the state (thank you, Right to Work laws).

What this essentially equates to is that Georgia’s teachers cannot go on strike because the state has the right to terminate said striking teachers. Our state has used red tape and bureaucracy to benefit itself again to a point where salary, contract and benefits for teachers as well as educational funding for students are at the mercy of a government that will sooner keep students from getting college degrees than end tax breaks for millionaires.

It is high time our state looked over its priorities again. Do we value public funding for education more than appeasing wealthy campaign donors and lobbyists?

My suggestion is that the state repeal its archaic restrictions on unionization and allow teachers the opportunity to negotiate with their employers before having hunks of their paychecks absorbed into a state budget handled by a government that shows little concern for the well-being of the millions of Georgians who study and teach.

Comments on this opinion can be sent to kyle.mitchell.shook@live.mercer.edu

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No Responses to “State budget priorities unbalanced and unfair”

  1. CW on February 23rd, 2011 5:27 pm

    Yes lets allow unions to control the labor force of Georgia so that we too can benefit from the complete financial ruin that unions bring.

    Take a look at the majority of union controlled areas of the country, and what will you see? Mainly you see complete bankruptcy. Unions had their place and time, fighting company stores, child labor, and several other hideous things that used to go on. I don't think anyone would argue that they did not serve a noble purpose during that time in history. But what do they really do for us now? They drive the cost of running anything from a business to a school system beyond what is possible.

    You mention the teachers in Wisconsin. What started the whole argument? The Union was upset that the school system wanted the teachers to pay a small percentage of their health care and retirement costs, as almost every other employee of any other company has to do. This led to the attempt to remove collective bargaining, which led to the strike etc.. sounds like a bunch of whiners to me.

    You want something that will fix public education almost immediately? Vouchers. Let the money follow the student, no matter what school they attend. This would force the schools to compete for the money from each student. If this was the case how long do you think some of these teachers that are just terrible would last?

    I too come from a family of teachers, and little money, but I don't blame the rich for my situation, I attempt to improve it.

  2. Kyle Shook on February 23rd, 2011 6:53 pm

    You are suggesting we transpose capitalism to public education? I'm not making an accusation, I just want to know if that is really what you are suggesting. Schools already compete for money as evident by the fact that public schools usually have a distinct income line. Our public schools are already deep enough in a system of competing for everything from uniform funds to computer-labs and the solution is to allow some schools to flourish while others sink? What happens to the schools that simply cannot keep up? If vouchers are introduced (beyond draining funds), it seems that it would only be a matter of time until there is one over crowded inefficient school where individual attention is a thing of the past (but thank God all the money is there). I'd think the solution would be to A) Elect a body that gives a damn about the workers in the state and B) dedicate more money, not less to schools in need of improvement and to stop preventing bright people from teaching simply because the state publicly shafts educators.

  3. Sean Kennedy on February 24th, 2011 9:29 am

    Education funding has increased over the past 30 years while test scores have stagnated. The problem isn't money, rather it is incompetent teachers, parents, and administrators.

    I don't want to move education into the private sector, but I do want massive structural reform.

  4. Carl V Lewis on March 14th, 2011 4:29 pm

    This is a test.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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State budget priorities unbalanced and unfair