Both the high school bands were missing from our recent July 4 parade. The teachers were without a contract for months and had voted “work to rule.” They worked to their contract terms, which meant that the school band teachers did not have the extra time to work with the band members to prepare them for the parade.
Judging from the comments in the paper, not too many people were happy. A lot of comments seemed to address the poor students – “why punish the kids from participating in the parade” seemed to be the general sentiment. I wish people felt freer to say, “I was disappointed that the students didn’t march.” Honestly, some kids probably were happy not to march. It gave them and their families a three-day weekend to get out of town.
But, the marching is not what bothers me. All this talk about punishing the children… What’s punished the children has happened over time. Money has been tight for a long time. Over the years the budget has been level-funded or cut or raised just enough to keep things afloat. User fees and fundraisers have created a huge underground economy to support the school, which in previous generations came out of the school budget. Cumulatively, though, our school district has been dying by a thousand cuts. Students today no longer have the breadth of courses and offerings that were once available. They have to make do with out-of-date textbooks.
We can’t fund our public education because our priorities are out of balance. We’ve also developed a dislike for taxes. We won’t raise taxes for any reason (say some politicians) or even increase taxes on the wealthy people in this nation. However, we have no problem deficit funding wars and giving tax credits to multi-billion dollar oil companies. We have the lowest overall tax burden of any industrial nation, but we still insist they’re too high.
We wring our hands about the school bands not being in the parade. I wish we’d also wring our hands at the diminished education we’re giving them.