"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Keep your nose on

Advice from my mother, "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face."


We've been told that to keep society running smoothly, people should work to earn money...to fuel the economy. That's why they are always so quick to fund (or advocate for) job providers (aka the business community) through tax breaks, tax rebates, tax refunds, and lower taxes (which are, btw, mostly unavailable to the average worker).

What happens, however, when people can't work? They have to go on welfare, which is apparently bad. We shouldn't have to pay for someone who won't work -- and there are too many people who are "gaming the system" by collecting welfare without working.

Our education system should teach students to be "contributing members of society." We need to raise our children so they can take their place in the workforce and not be a burden on the rest of us by going on the aforementioned welfare. Furthermore, we need to hire competent people to teach and care for our children.

What happens then, when schools and childcare facilities haven't got enough funding to function and can't find qualified people who will do the hard work of teaching or caring for children? The pay is too low. The hours are too long. The social cost is too great. Do we "let the market decide" about keeping schools and childcare facilities open? If we do that, what happens when those privately run churches and companies need more money to operate? Do they charge more? Or do they just close?

Is the profit motive sufficient to keep us teaching and caring for our children?

Living in a civilized country (and I know that I'm making an assumption here) means that we should ensure that parents can care for their children from the moment they take their first breath.

What happens, however, when the ability to earn money conflicts with the ability to educate and care for children? What happens when a family with two parents needs two workers and there is no one else to stay home to care for the kids? What happens when there is only one parent in a family, who must work to feed, clothe, and house her children, but there is no one to watch her kids when she's at work? We saw what happened when schools struggled to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Do we want that to continue?

Oh, would that we could return to the time when everyone lived in a two-parent family, with one worker (the father) and a "homemaker" (the mother) like in the "good old days."

Sadly, those "good old days" never really existed for many folks.


You'd think that the Indiana General Assembly would do its best to ensure that everything was in place so that people who are raising young children would be able to find jobs that paid enough to feed, clothe, and house their families and that they would be able to find an affordable place, with competent staff, where their children would be cared for and helped to grow while they were at work.

You'd think that...but unfortunately, you'd be wrong, because, Indiana, like so many other states, is a place that apparently really hates it's children. It's a place that apparently doesn't care whether workers can get to work and leave their children in a safe place. It's a place that apparently isn't interested in growing the economy by making sure people have enough money to fund services, businesses, and government.

Uncertain future for providers as child care crisis looms
One national think tank estimates that 3.2 million children may lose their child care as federal grant funding expires at the end of the month. Those dollars helped many centers keep their doors open during the economic tumult of the pandemic but Congress’ stalemate on spending might mean it’s too late for some providers.

“That (funding) helped stabilize the child care program to an extent and it made it possible for these programs to stay open,” Ailen Arreaza, the executive director of ParentsTogether, said. “But it was sort of like a Band-Aid on a big, open wound. And now that Band-Aid has been taken away.”

The stakes

Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, estimates that 70,000 child care programs nationwide would be impacted, roughly one-third of all the country’s providers. The organization predicts that nearly 49,000 Hoosier children will lose child care and just over 1,000 programs will close — triggering a $132 million loss in worker productivity and $120 million in lost wages for parents.
Ok, so it's not just Indiana...it's the whole damn country. That doesn't surprise me either. As a nation, the US doesn't seem to have the inclination or the foresight to provide for its children...or to plan for the future.
A 2023 survey from Arreaza’s organization found that 59% of parents reported cutting back on hours or leaving a job because they couldn’t find reliable, affordable child care. After losing that source of income, families often cut back on other expenses. Forty-four percent of families said they reduced food costs and over half, 55%, said they couldn’t save while shouldering the cost of child care, which rivals the cost of full-time, in-state college tuition in Indiana and elsewhere. [emphasis added]
What happens when people can't find or afford childcare? Do they give up their children so they can work? No, they ration their prescription drugs or stop taking them altogether, they cut back on food and health care, they juggle bills and risk legal problems, they go without and risk their lives and health, and they don't contribute to the economy. The economy slows...and stagnates...the need for welfare increases...which hurts us all.

...even people who make our laws about public funding of education and childcare!

Do we want to have a society that functions well or do we like having citizens living in economic crisis mode? Do we want a robust economy where everyone is well cared for and happy or do we like economic stagnation and desperate citizens? Do we want to prepare our children for the future or are we going to continue to shortchange them and then let them try to repair the damage as they get older?

Are we ever going to find the will to support our children through fully funded childcare and "a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all"?

Or are we going to continue to "cut off our nose to spite our face?"



Anonymous said...

Thank you for your succinct and prescient post! As a public school teacher in California who was mentally, physically, and spiritually broken hearted by for-profit, “public”, online charter schools and then professionally maimed because the corporate policy was not to write letters of recommendation which brick-and-mortar public schools require, I find much to agree with in your arguments. However, from my personal experience, I have come to believe that the runaway profit- seeking endeavors of our contemporary American popular culture which have infected even health care and education will not stop until the multitude of social ills and crises we are experiencing reach their inevitably devastating results. Historically, the Great Depression had to reach a boiling point of pain until the upper/ruling class and law-makers finally took action. I sincerely fear for the future of our children as much as I fear for the present sanity of our teachers, the preservation of public education in the US, and all American citizens’ social and environmental safety. When will corporations and their human proponents learn that greed is a vice not just in religious literature but in reality and “real time” because, ultimately, always wanting more and never appreciating what one already has only leads to endless misery for everyone.

Stu said...

It sounds to me like you’re saying that our society, like an alcoholic, won’t start to heal till we hit rock-bottom. That’s perhaps true. I have to believe, though, that eventually we will get better. After all, we still have many voices of conscience fighting for public education and against the move towards privatization and censorship. It won’t be easy and we will get hurt along the way, but it’s important. We can’t give up.