Benjamin Franklin once said “time is money.” I could not disagree more. Time is most certainly not money. Money is an imaginary concept with no value other than what we collectively agree upon as societies. Without this implicit accord those strips of paper that people work, fight, and die for are nothing more than pretty toilet tissue. In life most of us will misplace money. It is inevitable. It is also probable that most people through their travels will stumble upon money through some fortuitous situation. It might not always even out. On the whole we may come out ahead or behind.
Time is different. Our collective concept of time may be manmade; however the constant progression and decay all living beings experience is real and non-negotiable. Planets rotate; People age. The time we are given is made maddeningly precious by its unyieldingly finite state. Time only moves one way. Once past, it is gone forever. We get one shot to make the most of every second we live.
Schools require both time and money to be effective and efficient. Students and teachers need facilities structured to handle the rigors of housing thousands of kids, as well as adaptive enough to accommodate the vastly different needs of each discipline. Teachers need to be trained extensively and compensated respectfully in order to attract the highest quality candidates. In addition, an ample amount of teachers will be necessary to manage enrollment numbers that are constantly on the rise. Thirty-eight kids in an English class for 46 minutes is how Socrates did it, I’m sure.
Recently, a large influx of funding has been awarded to a number of states through the Race to the Top innovation program. Governor Perry denied countless schools the chance to compete for billions of dollars in grant money. He claimed Texas didn’t need the funding. Back on earth, nearly every major independent school district is facing budget shortfalls, resulting in mass layoffs and excising of many vital services. It should also surprise no one that he was also one of only two governors to reject a voluntary nationwide initiative to improve education standards. Perry claimed Texas had a better approach. Yet dropouts have become epidemic, even as Newsweek reports some parts of the state test (TAKS) only require 44 percent correct to pass.
Today, states are facing tragic circumstances. Double-digit unemployment, spiraling debt, and reduced revenue streams are putting the squeeze on an already skin tight situation. Some leaders are scrambling to plug fiscal holes in their budget. The Houston Chronicle reported that Governor Perry, despite the reality of large scale teacher firings, has decided to go further. Instead of incorporating Texas’ share of the Education Jobs funding bill ($850) into the schools, Perry feels it is more prudent to block this money, even going as far as to bring a lawsuit against the U.S. government. Why would he stall funds that are desperately needed in classrooms all across the state while simultaneously wasting state funds (tax dollars) on lawyers? Simple. Rick Perry is playing politics with our children’s lives, with the very future of this nation. He will not accept the money because it comes with the completely unreasonable stipulation that education funding be spent on educational needs. Crazy, I know. He is literally short-changing our students because he and the Republican Party are caught up in this game of political chicken with the President. They are banking that if the economy remains abysmal they can weasel their way back into power on the broken backs of angry voters in November. They are playing a dangerous game.
There is no time to waste. Every moment we systematically accept failure for our kids ensures that failure will be all they are capable of. These political calculations on the part of Perry would be understandable if nothing was available but the funds are already dedicated to the schools. Perry is playing for political time. He is playing with our future. Playtime is over.
Time may not be money. However in this case more money can enrich the little time we do have to prepare children to be competent adults. Once that fleeting moment has passed, it is gone forever.
Pat Wingert. Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets Schooled on State Test. Newsweek.
Gary Scharrer. Hassle over education money worries schools. Houston Chronicle.