Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Value of a Public Education


Lou Hough

For many years this author has wondered about what drives the minds of individuals in Congress.  Why would they vote to cut public education funds while valuing education so much they send their own children to expensive schools and pull strings to get them into Harvard?

It has felt for years as if school funds are tightest when Republicans hold the Congressional majority.  Here they are again wanting to cut taxes for the rich by cutting funding for public schools, colleges and student loans and grants.  Don't they know that it is the public education system that has made this country great?  It is the opportunity to go from uneducated to contributing, productive citizen that has produced our country's worth.

The Romney/Ryan team, as well as the Republican Platform, show designs on practically destroying public education.  The Platform shows the parents as responsible for the child's education.  They prefer state and local control and want the parents to have choice in the child's education.  But federal control and dispensing of funds equalizes the amount of dollars -- instead of a rich town or state having all of the opportunities.  These are our great-grandchildren that would suffer.

Mitt Romney professes to want to award school vouchers to individual families and let them apply them toward their children's educations.  He doesn't say how much of the costs the vouchers will cover or if they will be equal amounts in all the states or to all students.

He said students wanting to attend college could borrow from their parents and search for the lowest cost schools.  The man has no clue what it is like to be lower or lower middle class, does he?  Mr. Romney, where do you think these parents will get the money to loan their children?  From their minimum wage jobs?  How many more do you think they can work?

Paul Ryan's education plan, which passed the House but not the Senate, includes cutting $115,000,0000,000 from education -- yes, billion.  He plans to have 2,000,000 less children in Head Start, that program that levels the playing field at least until fifth grade.  He wants to cut Pell grants which help lower and lower middle class families afford college educations for their children.  And yes, Ryan's plan passed the Republican majority House of Representatives.

To show the value of our free public education, take a moment to consider this author's high school graduating class. The small community of 12,000 was basically a coal mining and farming city.  The class of '56 produced nine coal miners, some of whom became management, as well as seven homemakers.  The two valedictorians (a tie) became a doctor (one of three) and a nurse (one of two).  We also have an LPN from our midst.  One of us became a public school administrator; another served that role in a junior college.  At least two were teachers.  Three or more owned their own businesses.  We proudly claim four engineers.  Five of us worked in real estate, some as brokers.  We boast at least one insurance person as well as two investment gurus.  One of us became a cinematographer who worked nationally.  Another was a photographer.  Two became counselors or psychologists.  One is a journalist and book author.  We can claim one person in electronics and one a systems analyst.  One of us became a veterinarian -- three were electricians.  Four are ministers. 

Our free public education produced one computer programer, a court clerk and a travel agent.  We have one trucker, two librarians, a mechanic and a plumber.  One worked in television.  Four of us served as bookkeepers or accountants.  One became a postal employee.  Six have worked in various levels of the phone industry.  At least seven of us worked in some sort of sales and one in manufacturing.  Four worked in childcare, one a cook, another a school bus driver, all jobs requiring the patience of saints.  We boast the director of a charity, a seamstress, a millwright.  Ten worked in some form of the secretarial/clerical field and one in the oil business. 

Two were career military and others served as well.  We are very grateful to the one (or more) who died in battle to save our country.

So, you see, had it not been for our free public education, most of us would have stayed at home in mines until they shut down, on farms until conglomerates or realtors bought us out or as housewives until we had to go to work because our husbands lost their jobs.  Instead, we have spread all over the country from Florida to New York -- from New Orleans to Chicago -- from Texas to California.  Our public education jump started our careers, turning us into productive, valuable members of society.  Tampering with the funding for it is like signing a death warrant for our country and to our competitiveness with the world.  We have vastly repaid our country for their investment in us.

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