In the wake of public outcry over President Obama’s address to the nation’s schoolchildren, teachers and administrators say they are bracing for the next wave of outrage over the condition of the nation’s education system.
“If they’re this vocal over a president who simply wants to connect with students on a message parents should be stressing themselves in the first place, what are they going to say when they get a good look at what goes on in our school systems day in and day out?” said Gail Cunningham, a school superintendent based in the Midwest. “If all that anger can now be directed at things that really matter, we may actually see some improvement.”
Cunningham went on to say that overcrowded classrooms, outdated textbooks and dilapidated school buildings “should have these people jumping out of their skins” given the level of wrath expressed over a president merely “wishing to deliver a pep talk.”
“Wait until these people find out how many teachers have to spend money out of their own pockets just to buy essential classroom supplies,” Cunningham continued, her own sense of outrage beginning to show. “That’ll set them off for sure.”
Cunningham added that she was encouraged by all the parents who wanted to see an advance copy of Obama’s speech before allowing their child to listen to it. “I’m sure they’ll be reviewing their child’s new textbooks this term, too, and will have even more to be suspicious about then.”
Unfunded mandates should be another hot spot for parents of school age children, according to Cunningham. “Congress has done a great job of saddling us with increasing responsibilities and obligations, such as various components of No Child Left Behind or for special education,” she said. “But then they refused to fund any of this and the states and local governments had to find the money themselves. The tops of their heads will be coming off when they realize what’s been going on in this regard.”
Cunningham voiced a litany of ills related to public education including high drop out rates, lagging technological funding and additional resources required in areas such as math and reading.
“Wait till these parents realize how many of our students are graduating without being able to read at grade level or do the simplest math problem,” Cunningham observed. “They’ll be marching on Washington with pitchforks and torches!”
Cunningham said she recently heard a story about a class valedictorian in the Midwest that couldn’t even place Delaware properly on a map of the United States.”
“She though it was somewhere in New England!” Cunningham stated, her expression white with anger now. “I mean, I’m just waiting until all these people enraged over President Obama speaking to our students realize how many kids we’re graduating into colleges who aren’t even prepared for high school.”
She added, “And don’t get me started on the cost of a college education for students who, according to surveys, can’t even identify the three branches of government!”
Cunningham’s demeanor suddenly became more sober when a reporter wondered aloud how many parents complaining about Obama’s speech to students might not know which branch of government he represents.
“We have to hope we used to do a better job than we’re doing now,” Cunningham replied in a tone that seemed distant and distracted.
In an unrelated story, the community in which Cunningham’s school system is located rejected a bond issue for a new high school to relieve overcrowding, while overwhelmingly approving a bond for a new prison to relieve same.