Money is what makes the world go round. While this statement is sad it is also true, and without the proper funding schools struggle to create and even maintain basic functioning abilities. Especially in today's economic climate we see a steady and constant downturn of the funding given to schools. Over the past five years almost all schools have seen a steady decline in the amount of federal and state funding. School boards have been face to face with creating budgets that are not only filled with difficult decisions, but they are forced to decide how many teachers we will be losing, what programs are worth more than others, and finally which ones can be cut.
So when you ask, why is important for teachers to know where the money is coming from, I can only ask, why wouldn't they want to know. The budget directly effects the materials they will be able to get, the amount of students in their classes, and even more critically their salary and benefits. Teachers are already seen by most as a vastly underpaid profession, and yet they play a major role in the futures of our youth. As teachers and future teachers, we need to make it a point to find out as much information about the budgets as we can so we can be informed consumers.
Each year a school board passes a budget to be voted on by their local community who essentially will pay a school tax that directly affects the budget of their local schools. If as consumers you have no idea what is going into the budget, all you see is the increase in the amount of money you will be paying on top of your property taxes. To many people, they already feel that their taxes are too high, making it difficult to justify paying even more. They have an even more difficult time ponying up more money when they don't have any children going through the public school system. They don't understand that a 3% increase on their taxes could potentially save 20+ jobs in their district. All they see is that they will pay another couple hundred dollars. They don't have anything physical to attach the extra fees to.
There are other ways that money can be brought in other than the federal and state funding. There are a massive amount of grants available to teachers, if you are willing to work for them, but since nothing is free, you will need to pay in effort and dedication. Programs like Keep Gym In School are dedicated to keeping Physical education in our schools, and they are advocates of keeping kids active. Strikingly enough, they also offer grants to teachers who they find are dedicated and are trying to pushing the boundaries of their physical education programs. Earning money for your program or school, doesn’t have to come from grants either, because chances are there are people in your community that would be willing to donate funds towards your program. The thing is, it is up to the teacher to go out and find those people, because last time I checked people don’t walk around handing out money. However if your program is open and outgoing, you are more willing to find community members who are willing to support you and your ideas. These ideas need to be reviewed and agreed on, and to make sure that you can explain and present them in a way that shows you have done your groundwork.
As teachers we need to be able to explain where the money comes from and what it is going towards, because the old answer of "it is going towards your child's education" won't cut it anymore. More than that, you need to know where the rest of the money is coming from, because if you aren't informed enough to give an educated answer, how are you going to talk to your community members and express to them the importance of this tax. Having my wife as a teacher has given me greater insight into both sides of the issue that most never get to see. I know what it is like to pay high taxes and see a steady increase each year, and yet I also hear about schools laying off dozens of teachers, and even worse closing schools. I also have a more in depth look into what the school budget involves rather than just buying books and paying salaries. Teachers are being forced to take pay freezes in their contracts simply because funding has been cut in half from where it was years ago. So as times get worse and costs go up, pay stays the same. This increased pressure in their personal financial situations should be reason enough to gain as much knowledge about the issue as possible. Otherwise everyone can keep burying their heads in the sand and hope for the best and complain about the rest.