This post originally appeared on Angela Sasseville’s blog at FlourishCounseling.com. Cross-posted with permission.
By Angela Sasseville, MA, LPC, NCC
Wednesday, February 16th. 8:30am I make my daily run to drop my kids off at school and daycare. 9:10am I arrive at my office and check email. I find a personal email from national journalist David Brancaccio from PBS. We met a couple years ago when he interviewed me for a piece on the economic issues affecting mothers. He tells me he’s in Denver today covering the state budget crisis. Then he tells me, a Colorado citizen, that he’s sorry to hear about what’s taking place. What’s he talking about? I wonder, becoming concerned. But it’s time for my first meeting so I go about my normally scheduled and very full work day.
4:00pm I finish up at the office, round up the kids from school, feed them some snacks and finally sit down at my laptop to investigate the day’s news. Why is a national reporter in town today? And why is he apologizing to me? “$332 Million Cut From Colorado K-12 Schools,” scream the headlines. I read the article about Governor Hickenlooper’s proposed budget cuts calmly, taking in the details of what is about to happen to my children’s public school education unless citizens unite to put a stop to it. I am generally a calm and grounded person but I feel the calm in my body give way to rage, protest, and discouragement.
A mental file in my brain titled “Ways in Which Our Country is Failing Our Children” is pulled out of storage and reopened. This file contains the memory of Election Night 2010 in which the ticker running across the bottom of the television screen quietly announced that my daughter’s school district would be hit with $35 Million in budget cuts, causing my heart to drop. Those cuts meant lost jobs, more pressure on educators, and even the loss of someone to vacuum the rug in my kid’s classroom.
The file contains visions of my child’s passionate alternative public school staff looking sleep deprived and down-trodden last year when the Colorado legislature ended each school district’s ability to determine what makes a school successful. In this day and age of extreme education cuts, the state of Colorado now holds the power and is insisting that all public schools increasingly “teach to the test” and narrow their focus to CSAP content to increase scores, or their schools will be closed. Somewhere in this narrow focus, we’ve lost site of the fact that our publically funded alternative schools are beacons of what public education can do for children. They allow children to develop their own passion and internal drive for learning and teach them how to become critical and independent thinkers. The incredible, long-term benefits that teaching children in an effective manner can have on the psychology of public education are being ignored for the more simplistic (yet statistically flawed and homogenized) way of measuring “success” with standardized tests.
And now Hickenlooper’s proposal. As a parent whose children are still just at the beginning of their public educations, I’m already deeply tired of this barrage of economic intrusions into their classrooms. When will the budget cuts to programs affecting children and families end? My children and their school teachers did not cause our economic problems. It’s time that we stop believing that taking money away from them will fix our financial deficits! Under-funding education only brings about more long term societal problems like the academic failures and drop outs that occur when young people are not engaged.
11:00pm My husband and kids are sleeping and I sit down to blog. I have to be honest. – As the mother of two young children and a small business owner, I sometimes lose track of current affairs for weeks at a time. A loved one is having surgery this week, we’ve been invited to 9 children’s birthday parties this month alone, our dog is sadly over due to go to the groomers, and there are only 24 hours in a day. It’s easy to fall out of the loop.
There is only one thing that I can count on between now and May when the public hearings about Hickenlooper’s proposal will take place. – That my household and my life will continue to be busy and I won’t easily find time to stand up for public education. But what we are at risk of losing is so enormous, so devastating to every young person in Colorado and to the culture of this great state, that I will make the time. After all, if our children’s generation is to inherit a broken economy and a staggering deficit, then the least that we can provide for them is a decent education to equip them for the challenges that lie ahead. Their generation will need to know how to think creatively and how to solve complex problems.
Dear Mr. Hickenlooper, raise my taxes if you must but balancing the budget by bankrupting public education is NOT a solution. And this beleaguered and angry mother will not sit idly by while you rob our youngest citizens of a bright future.