Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Vampire Nation 

Oh boy, I guess I should have expected this, parents selling plasma to raise money for schools, but wow, no one could have provided a better metaphor for this time; those in power would have us bleed for their beliefs, wether in Eugene, Ore, in the selling of plasma for education, or the actual giving of our lives in Iraq. For these fanatics running our country, it will never be enough. They are vampires, intent on sucking the life blood of the people of this country for their own economic and political survival, intent on sucking the black blood of the land beneath the feet of the Iraqi people, for economic and political survival, and the red blood from their bodies if necessary. They will never have enough; they will never have enough. The metaphors are living. We are even giving our blood now. From ABCnews.com:

Concerned parents have always been ready to give a little of their time and energy to help their kids' schools, but it may be a sign of the times when people are offering to give up their summer — or even their blood.

The parents of children at a Eugene, Ore., school who tried to raise $30,000 to save a teacher's job by selling their blood plasma may be an extreme case, but parents, educators, school administrators and activists across the country say that it is indicative of what public schools, and the communities they serve, are facing.

"I don't want to say the house is on fire, but clearly states' budget problems and the proposed federal cuts pose an unprecedented problem," said Brenda Welburn of the National Association of State Boards of Education. "States have had problems before, but this is unprecedented because it is so pervasive across so many states."

According to a National Conference of State Legislatures study, states will have to close a $21.5 billion budget gap in the final two months of fiscal year 2003 to meet balanced budget requirements, and 41 states face a cumulative $78.4 billion budget gap in 2004.

That means cuts, and Welburn said schools will not be exempt. What she and others find most disturbing is that the ax is already falling on core programs, and that is a trend likely to continue. She said 21 states say they will cut or at least freeze some aspect of the pre-kindergarten through grade 12 curriculum.

Among the hardest-hit states next year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures study, could be Massachusetts, where schools could see cuts in state aid of up to 20 percent; Vermont, which is considering a $20 million reduction in general funds for schools; Connecticut, where the governor has recommended cuts totaling more than $200 million; and Georgia, where $156 million has been cut.

"This is a bigger budget crisis than we've faced in the past," said Howard Schaffer of the Public Education Network, a nonprofit organization that helps parents form groups to be more effective at fund raising and becoming involved in school affairs. "We've faced budget crises in the past that have affected schools' abilities to go from being good to being great, but this time it is affecting fundamental core instruction areas."