“A number of nations are out-educating us today in the STEM disciplines—and if we as a nation don’t turn that around, those nations will soon be out-competing us in a knowledge-based, global economy.” This was the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s recent statement on the results of the 2011 TIMSS and PIRLS Assessments and their potential impact on our nation’s future.
Mr. Duncan’s concern comes at a time when the U.S. is facing the fiscal cliff and its potential to evoke economic disaster across the U.S. Although some financial gurus say the fiscal cliff is more of a slope, the fact is that in the world of education this is set to be a precipitous abyss laden with failure.
According to Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association, the federal cuts in education of 8.2% and $4.8 billion will affect 9 million students. The budget cuts to all federal discretionary spending programs will mean even less help for an already struggling American learning system. Van Roekel also said the cuts in education will impact 98% of American public school students so that the wealthiest 2% can have a tax break.
Programs that would be cut include:
• Title 1 education programs that aid low income students
• IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), which supports the education of special needs students
• Language Acquisition state grants, which aid English language learning students
• Rural Education Achievement Program, which helps small, rural school districts
• Improving Teacher Quality Education, which contributes to the professional development of our teachers.
It’s time to ask lawmakers: At what cost is this nation ‘saving’ money? Is an ignorant nation with only the wealthiest 2% receiving the chance at equal
education the price we must pay to get America out of this fiscal gorge?
Let’s ask Finland, Singapore, Canada and South Korea whether these were the fundamental steps they took when they decided to improve their educational
systems and surpass us in global education rankings.
Since teacher professional development is crucial to implement the new federal mandates of the Teacher Evaluation and Common Core Standards, I feel pinned against the wall as an educator. I am mandated by federal law to adhere to both federal mandate laws and although I was promised professional development to ensure my success and transition to comply with these programs, funding for help with such transition may be eliminated.
The kind of loss in education funding the federal government proposes to “fix” our economic turmoil, will continue to yield ignorance across our nation. As a world language classroom teacher, I will face the reality of the cuts first hand, as some of the proposed cuts would affect language acquisition programs in my home state of Massachusetts. It’s an understatement to say that I am deeply concerned and appalled at the prospect of cutting back funding on education at a time when we need it the most.
What saddens me the most is that once again, the students negatively affected will be those in our urban and rural school systems who depend on federal funding for their education. And here we are again, back to the topic of poverty and its impact on the success or failure of U.S. education.
Melody Rivera is a World Language Teacher in the Chicopee, MA school district.