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Schools Can No Longer Be Our Social Safety Net

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/08/17/schools-can-no-longer-be-our-social-safety-net


Before retiring in 2009 I taught elementary school for 36 years. Since then and until March 2020 I have been a substitute at our local high school. (I have several degrees.) I will not be going back this year. This has nothing to do with the fact that I was getting the same pay per day with no raises for those years. It is because I will be 72 in a couple of months and as much as I love teaching (roughly half time each year due to lots of teachers who trust me.) It is also because I do not wish to die, even for a vocation I have chosen and loved for all these years.

My youngest son is getting married in October in a state 1000 miles away. I am concerned about the travel and lodging this week will require, yet I will attend. A week in a cramped, poorly ventilated classroom is much scarier to me. Some say “You can’t cower in your basement forever.” Or, “Life is a risk every day.”

I say, “The scenario that the Criminal Trump Administration has put us in is orders of magnitude more frightening than anything we have ever dealt with before… and the situation is not improving.”

Selfish me, besides my son’s wedding, I want to be Alive on November 3rd to VOTE BLUE! I’ll even wear my Bernie T-shirt.

Still, I will truly miss all the loyal and dedicated teachers who have become my friends the past eleven years.


Three major changes must occur for the American scholastic’s system to catch up with the rest of the planet.
To begin with, schools shouldn’t be a business. But if Charter schools are so convinced that they can provide more bang for the buck, I would simply pass legislation that says any Charter School teacher must earn at least 20% above the public school teacher salary. The extra cost is because private schools require more from their teachers, they don’t have the same union protections and they’re competing against schools that we the public own. If the Charter School can still provide a good education while paying their teachers more AND have a little bit left over to pay their Wall Street investors, the public can live with that.
Secondly, each school that shows sub par performance must receive extra funding from the State. Generally an additional $5,000,000 a year extra for under performing schools is standard in more developed countries like Canada and Germany. This would go a long way to provide more equity within the educational system.
Finally, all schools that have racial minorities in their school should get extra funding to help combat the systemic racism that so many American children are victims of. This should be a temporary measure in theory because eventually all schools will become indistinguishable from each other in terms of education and access to higher learning and/or trades.
Though a country like Germany has recognized and accepted its responsibility in the recent slaughter (WW11) of so many people by paying reparations and incorporating their past crimes into the classroom teachings, the U.S. has not recognized its brutal past. Slavery lasted for over 250 years, followed by 100 years of Jim Crow laws followed by over 50 years (and still counting!) of the mass incarceration of people of color. It is high time to accept responsibility for our ugly past and own up up to our responsibility as a nation to do whatever is necessary to repair the damage caused.
None of these reforms are possible though unless the electorate can get rid of the corporate controlled Democrats and Republicans that ooze out of every crevice of Congress. Let’s elect a House and Senate that reflects American values instead of Wall Street demands and bring a semblance of democracy to our neglected educational system.


I agree with SC above, education should not be a for profit endeavor. Neither should health care, firefighters, police, the military and it’s suppliers.
IMO education reform should start with the pre-K to grammar school kids, heavily. And perhaps secondary schools should not force kids to attend…it could be a choice, they could want to attend free public schools for education.
When I go to Mexico, I don’t see any schools around the boarder; Many send their kids across to the U.S.

What a wonderful post! Every paragraph has measures that must be acted on. The US has failed to provide equity in school funding for far too long. Primary and Secondary teaching has not included the terrible things done by the federal and state governments, business, and people. Schools-for-Profit must be held accountable and become a helpful alternative to the public system, not a replacement for it. I’m going to send this to friends.


It’s not only schools. Every time someone needs to set up a GoFundMe page to pay medical expenses, or to pay for a funeral, or to help with other needs that should be part of a national safety net, we see how the rich just sit back and laugh at us. The Little People, the Widow’s Mite, still have enough compassion and empathy to attempt to help. But that won’t last much longer. We’re tapped out. Covid ripped the veneer of the Potemkin Village the US of Abuse tries to sell the rest of the world, showing the true ugliness underneath. No, you cannot get rich if you just try hard enough. But you can get extremely rich by gaming the system, by exploiting others. Like the Trump family. Or our current batch of Billionaires. Or the Old Money who hide their true wealth for generations, the money they earned either from slavery or from paying slave wages to employees. That is all hidden in Swiss bank accounts, offshore tax shelters, and real estate.
Time to look at countries such as Finland, where children don’t start formal education until age 7, are funded through university level, have no homework, and enjoy life. Instead, we teach our children to answer to a bell, to compete at an early age, and join the grind that’s “life” in America.
America, where the only safety net is for the rich and their spawn. They attend schools already knowing they’re entitled, and are taught to do whatever it takes to succeed, even to kill if necessary. Fred Trump taught his brats that ethos, and look what it led to.


I’m about halfway through Isabel Wilkerson’s wonderful Caste – far enough to sense she certainly has put her finger on it. With so many simple, intelligent ways of doing things blocked for arbitrary reasons, Wilkerson decodes the reason behind the reasons for all of USA’s seemingly senseless structural, oh so casual violence: maintaining caste – especially keeping outcastes in their place. It’s practically been our national mission, predating the nation, for the past four centuries: sorting out the human chaff. (Come to think of it, that’s also consistent with genocidally turning SARS2 loose to run rampant here.)

The book contains many startling observations. For instance: There are no black people in Africa.

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Thank you for the great book referral. I have stacks of books I need to read that reaches to the ceilings, on all different subjects. However, they have a common theme. How homo sapiens isn’t, and how all of our current problems stem from our separation from our connections with our planet, with other beings, and with each other. There’s one book, try as I might, I simply cannot read without gagging because it’s an apologia for the rich-The Natural History of the Rich by Richard Conniff. His cv reads like he’s a mole for the Kochs and other Libertarians. However…know thy enemy.
Another interesting book is White Trash by Nancy Isenberg. Just a citation from the book put me in FB jail…

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