WTF Wednesday

When I was home over the break, I got into a strange conversation with a relative over public education. With the exception of one person, every single person in my family is the beneficiary of a publicly-funded K-12 education and those of us who went to college all attended state institutions. Much of what we have achieved is thanks to an public education supported by tax dollars.

I am a huge supporter of tuition-free community college, and would love to see a drastically decreased cost for four-year universities and graduate education. I do not see how we keep up as an economy and society without affordable higher education.To be clear, higher education to me means any educational experience after high school. It can be a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, welding certification, an electrician’s license, etc. Anything that requires additional education. I want everyone to have the opportunity to pursue that at a low cost. I do not believe that the bachelor’s degree is the be all end all for most people, and I think (my personal opinion) there are too many students who have been pressured into a four-year degree who would have been better suited and more successful in an associate’s or technical training program. But, that’s another rant for another day.

Back to the story. The conversation started because my relative was talking about encouraging his high school student to start at a community college so it would be more affordable. I said that was a brilliant and wise idea, then noted that California is on the path to potentially offer a tuition free associate’s degree. Currently, we have programs that waive the first year of community college for first-time full-time students, but a bill introduced in 2018 (and now supported by the Governor’s proposed budget) would extend that to two full years which is just incredible to me. It horrifies me that it can cost people their entire life savings or put them in horrific debt for decades to obtain an education.

When I mentioned the push in California for community colleges, he rolled his eyes and said, “Yeah, funded by tax payers.” Yes, it is funded by tax payers, just like all of the education that he and I have both received. He then started talking about how he has to pay for his own kids’ education and that other people should pay their own way like he did. I reminded him that he received a free K-12 education (as are his kids right now) and that he attended college in the late 80s which was a completely different economy (with much lower tuition). Oh, and his parents paid for his education, not him.

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He went on a rant about taxes and capitalism and blah blah blah. I am not the right person to talk to about this anyway because I am perfectly fine paying taxes. I appreciate the the benefits of paying taxes. I would happily pay more taxes if it meant that me and the rest of the country did not have to face financial ruin (or just die) because of medical care costs. I would MURDER someone to not have student loans, but I would be happy for my taxes to make education more affordable for the next generation – even if I never have children. Just because I got f*cked doesn’t mean that others should be. I hate this attitude so much. I cannot even count the number of times someone has grumbled to me about how they should not have to pay taxes for education because they send their kids to private school. WELL, GOOD FOR YOU. These people never seem to realize that they and their parents and grandparents all benefited from a free public education.

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Finally, I am sending all of my support and love to the teachers on strike in here in California. It is unethical and immoral that we as a society are willing to pay the people who have one of the hardest jobs in the country an unlivable wage. All of my teacher friends have extra jobs. All of them. Some have multiple extra jobs. The low-end for teacher salaries in the Bay Area is $46,000!! That is a livable wage in my small rural hometown in Texas where you, but not in California, not with income tax, and especially not in that part of the state. I would struggle to live in that area on what I make which is significantly more.

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I taught for one year and it was the most exhausting experience of my life. It was too damn hard. I cannot even fathom having to work another job in addition to teaching because I went home every day and slept. It also disgusts me that in states like Texas, the penalties for striking are draconian. Not only do employees lose benefits and wages, they can also be non-renewed, terminated, or even lose their pension benefits. If we valued education as a society and paid educators appropriately, then we would not be here. DO BETTER, AMERICA.

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