I've had an epiphany.
When I was younger, I would complain daily about how I hated my school and everything about it. My mom used to tell me that someday, I would really appreciate the school that I attended and the people who were there with me.
Well, as much as I hate to admit it (really, I hate it), I guess she was right.
I realize now that I was lucky to be a student in the school district that I attended for most of my teenage years.
Growing up, my parents always wanted me to attend small, intimate schools where the teachers actually cared about their students and the class sizes were no bigger than 15 to 20 students.
I had every opportunity available to me during elementary, middle and high school. Whether it was drama club or joining the volleyball team, I had the chance to do it all – and I took advantage of it.
I was lucky enough to attend a school system that invested thousands into building a new high school for its 300 students, added a pool to the gym, and built a truly incredible addition to its elementary school.
I was taught by the same teachers throughout my middle and high school years, and was able to develop a relationship with them that I don't think many people can say they had the chance to do. (I used to drink juice boxes and take naps at my English teacher's desk during class.)
And with all that was provided to me at school, I never once thought about where the money came from to fund it all – until now.
According to an article that was published on Tuesday in the New York Times, educational funding has never been as bad as it is today.
On Monday during an interview, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, estimated that state budget cuts put 100,000 to 300,000 public school jobs at risk for termination. He stated that the nation was undergoing an "educational catastrophe."
"Districts in California have pink-slipped 22,000 teachers. Illinois authorities are predicting 17,000 public school job cuts. And New York has warned nearly 15,000 teachers that their jobs could disappear in June," the article said.
And the cuts don't stop there.
According to the article, the American Association of School Administrators conducted a survey and found that nine out of 10 superintendents expect to lay off their employees this fall.
And sooner than you'd think, kids might have to say goodbye to a five-day school week. This same survey found an 11 percent increase in just one year of schools considering reducing the school week to just four days because of funding problems.
I've only been out of high school for three years, and already school districts like mine might have to lay off teachers, cut athletic programs and possibly eliminate music and art programs all together.
We have seriously skewed priorities.
According to the article, the economic stimulus bill passed last February set aside $100 billion in education financing. However, states spent almost all of it this year to save 342,000 school jobs (only about 5.5 percent of school positions nationwide).
It is estimated that states will spend another $36 billion of the stimulus money next year. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this still leaves their budgets short by almost $144 million dollars.
"Is the federal government going to try to prop up states and districts forever?" said Michael Petrilli, a previous member of the Education Department. "If not, we're just kicking the can down the road. Eventually, districts need to learn to live with less."
So, why should we care? After all, UB students are currently suffering from a portion of the $90 million of SUNY budget cuts.
But, think of it this way – does a 5-year-old deserve to deal with the same financial worries of a 21-year-old?
For schools to be required to "live with less" is unimaginable to me. A solution to end the cuts to school programs and the layoffs of teachers needs to be a priority.
Education is too important for it not to be.
I've had an epiphany.