Tonawanda News

March 12, 2014

LETTER: Failing schools a problem for all of us

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — We are continuously reading about the poor state of our education system and how our children are lagging in comparison to other countries. We are being told to raise our standards, increase the rigor and get rid of our bad educators. While education becomes more demanding, curriculum taught at a faster and more intense pace, more concepts added at younger ages, our state has taken away our resources to help our schools succeed. 

While the children in our schools are expected to make huge gains, our class sizes enlarge, the services our children receive, whether it be gifted programs to further enrich and advance our out-of-the-box thinkers or resource services for children who need extra help, are removed due to lack of funds. Children who were lagging in reading by a small amount, someone maybe we could say at risk of failing, now cannot receive services because those programs are cut. Our children must fail first and then possibly if they are the lowest of the low, they can receive academic help. 

Our schools, our children, our counties in Western New York are being set up for failure. Long gone are the days when the schools were able to purchase new titles for the classroom library or math materials needed as teaching and learning tools. Long gone are the field trips I was able to take to UB’s Geology Department during a rocks/minerals unit, viewing seismograph machines, and experiencing first-hand current research with earthquake resistant buildings. 

Last week I listened to Dr. Timbs present from the Statewide School Finance Consortium that all our Western New York schools are in fiscal crisis mode. It is not the fault of us taxpayers. We are among the heaviest taxed in the country. Our teachers have taken wage freezes, given back health insurance benefits and other concessions to save education. 

So where is our money? Have we looked at the wealthy school districts? Not Clarence, they’re not wealthy. Let’s look at Rye, in downstate New York, where their common wealth ratio is 16 times greater than any of us here in Western New York. Why are they receiving double, even triple times the amount of state aid per student than us? No one there is on free and reduced lunch, yet they have no deficit issues. Why do we pay taxes but General Electric doesn’t? Why do new businesses coming to Western New York not have to pay taxes for the next 10 years? Those taxes would replace the tattered books that have pages falling out, or pay for a reading recovery program or a summer school program to help children <\Iz12f”sans-serif”>before they fail. 

We should be outraged. If we, in Western New York have no exceptional education to offer who will move here? Who will stay? Who will buy our homes? The state of education is a problem for all of us, whether we have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. The quality of our schools has a direct impact to our financial worth and well being — in short, our futures. We together need to make Western New York — the United States — what it should be, a great democracy where all children are entitled to an equal education.

Annemarie Gibson