Consider the following words: gangs, drug use, pregnant teens, petty crime, unsafe neighborhoods, poor schools, being homeless, children without parents, reckless driving, suicide, mental health issues. Every word listed could be expanded into reams of writing: how this is a problem, how this problem is growing, how we cannot seem to make a dent in this problem and how every problem listed is a drag on the economy.
WANT TO SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS? Good Public Education For EVERY CHILD Is the Key
Because YES, one problem infects another and each problem affects local, state and national governments and uses tax dollars that could be used to make America the shining city on the hill (Reagan) or whatever metaphor you care to choose.
Because the little kids you see crowded into a poor daycare center today can become the troubled teenagers that might mess up your neighborhood tomorrow or fill up the court systems after that. It has to stop.
Please consider this, taken from an article in the LA TIMES: The current administration wants to impose the biggest cuts to federal education funding in memory and slash support to poor children and families by cutting Medicaid, food stamps and other programs while cutting taxes for the rich. (DO YOU SEE THE GAP GETTING SO WIDE THAT IT CAN NEVER BE HEALED?? my words) It is an agenda that betrays millions of families seeking a better life, and one at odds with what this country stands for. Public schools are a fundamental engine of opportunity in this country. We will (we must) stand together to defend them. ( to read more go here.)
Tax Dollars Need to Be Spent In ALL Neighborhoods
Each problem that I have listed could be ameliorated, helped, reduced, maybe even eliminated if one thing was offered and utilized by each of our citizens: excellent public education that leads to JOBS!!!
The current administration talks a great deal about jobs. But you can’t GET A JOB if you don’t quality, if no one will hire you. There are jobs in this country that American citizens cannot fill so employers go abroad to find workers. Google it. You will find articles like these: America’s Persistent Problem: Unskilled Workers; America Has Near Record 5.6 Million Job Openings. And there is this:
Companies can’t find enough skilled workers. Manufacturing jobs have become more technical, but workers haven’t kept up. That’s left companies with a glut of low-skilled workers and a shortage of applicants who can really do the job.
There is a solution. There has always been a solution. The United States needs to educate its citizens. ALL ITS CITIZENS. And do a damn good job of it.
A Divided Country Cannot Stand
My argument, and you are welcome to poke holes in it, is that we must eliminate every problem I have listed. We cannot continue on the path we are on which actually is creating two Americas: one where the super-wealthy and the moderately wealthy live and work; the other where the poor and those getting by live and work.
Education Can Make a Difference
- Gangs: involving young children in MEANINGFUL education that communicates self-worth helps them see a future for themselves that is not the streets but a job.
- Drug use: keep kids involved in the school day with sports and extra curricular activities, honor their self-worth and they won’t need drugs to feel good about themselves.
- Pregnant teens: I worked with a program called RISING STAR. We helped girls that had already had one child go back to school, alter their goals to include getting a job and thus a feeling of self-worth that comes from earning an income. This also helped them PROVIDE for the child they already had. Today, offering health education in schools and providing healthcare for young girls will help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
- Petty crime and unsafe neighborhoods go hand in hand, occuring when growing men and women cannot find a purpose for their lives and do not receive respect from teachers, parents and people who have “power” over them.
- Reckless driving, suicide and mental health issues occur in the lives of young people who are lost and cannot see a future for themselves. They feel rejected by society and harbor a death wish. Education builds self-respect, creates a pathway to a good and fulfilling life.
- Being homeless or not having a parent often springs from the generation above that did not have a good education and thus a job. Responsibility to the child they brought into the world is key, but some have no hope.
I know I have drawn this picture with some broad strokes, so next week I will offer a few solutions. Thanks for reading. I’ll end with a few more thoughts from the LA TIMES article.
Research, common sense and our collective experiences working with children, families and schools tell us that we must invest in, not cut back, public education. That means providing high-quality preschool for kids, and the social health and mental health services they need. It means making sure students are reading at grade level by the end of the third grade, that they have powerful learning opportunities, including career and technical training that can prepare them for college and work.