Waiting for Superman

Every time I talk to my teacher friend about her underfunded school I’m enraged and saddened. Last week she couldn’t pass out worksheets because there was no paper and no one in her school knew when they would get any. One of the teachers lets students watch television during class. Another was allowed to continue teaching after an accident left the teacher brain damaged with emotional and psychological problems. This elementary school doesn’t have working computers. They have computers, but they are so old only a couple even turn on.

Why don’t they have paper and working computers when schools receive more money per student than ever before? Why are teachers that can’t function or are ineffectual allowed to continue teaching?

The documentary “Waiting for Superman” blames it on the teachers’ unions for keeping bad teachers.

There are bad teachers in every school and the parents, students and other teachers know it. DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee had it right to offer teachers incentives to do well instead of rewarding them for simply existing. Bad teachers shouldn’t be allowed to keep their jobs, just like a bad doctor or lawyer or police officer shouldn’t keep theirs.

It’s not that I don’t understand how difficult it is to be a teacher. I could never do it. It takes a special gift. My brother is a teacher and he is extremely dedicated. He loves math and he loves teaching. He’s been doing it 20 years and he’s done it well. My teacher friend is also a fabulous teacher who works hard to give her students as much as she can.

Speaking of my teacher friend. I know why, but I have to ask why there is absolutely no parental involvement in her school? I know the parents work more than one job and many don’t have any money to spare. But why does my overworked friend have to put on a fund raiser so her students can go on a field trip? Why isn’t there one parent, just one, who could step up and do it for her.

The school my kids go to is flush with parental involvement. We are very lucky to live in a nice neighborhood in Los Angeles where parents have chosen not send their kids to private school and instead put money and effort into a public one. Parent volunteers raise enough money to hire PE, Music, and Art teachers, a librarian, and fund some teacher positions.

But there are many middle class and wealthy neighborhoods where instead of donating anywhere from $500 to $1,500 a year to support their local school where everyone would benefit from the donation, parents pay $22,000 a year for their child to go to private school. Even Davis Guggenheim, the director of Waiting for Superman, decided against putting his kids in the local public school.

If the haves continue to abandon public schools the system is going to crumble even further. It’s pathetic that in America we have kids in middle school who can’t read. That kids are dropping out of high school in staggering rates. That high tech companies have to go abroad to hire qualified employees.

More money always helps, but we need to do a better job of spending the money that does go into public schools. We need to balance out the waste and inequities that exist in many school districts. If that means cleaning house in school districts across the country or abandoning the teachers union’s archaic system then so be it. There is nothing more important than educating our children. Parents need to get mad and organize and agitate for systemic change.

I went to a screening of “Waiting for Superman” paid for by the Charter School Group K12. Other bloggers who have written about the film include SoCalMom, Sarah Auerswald, Elise’sRamblings, Los Angelista, Pillowbook, and Queen of Spain.