So far is it that we have evolved in our public school system that I no longer use yesterday’s method of communicating with an administrator or teacher, via email.  No longer do I try to phone for an appointment.  Voicemails, messages, emails, phone calls – they all, more often than not, go quite simply unanswered.  Here’s the innovative method I’ve developed that seems to be the only one that works nowadays:  grab some work and some water, stake out a comfortable chair in the waiting room, and wait:  just wait.  Sit patiently and pleasantly until they can no longer stand the sight of you just waiting because there is no functional mechanism any longer for actually reaching and scheduling anyone in charge.  Note that this does not work for the middle management, the field district administration offices of LAUSD (e.g., “ESC-North, -East, -South”, etc.  These locales simply leave their phones ringing with no answer and no voicemail.  And as it happens, not knowing where these offices are located, it is hard to stake out a successful presence there).

Let me add immediately: this neglect is not the administrator/teacher’s fault.  The non-responsiveness of the leaders and doers in our schools is a function more-or-less exclusively, of the fact that Not Enough People Staff Our Schools.  There are insufficient teachers, insufficient administrators, insufficient librarians, insufficient musicians and repairers and cleaners and copy clerks and psychologists and counselors and plumbers and electricians …. all of it.  There are not enough people in our schools working at these jobs.

Because there is not enough money allocated for them.

And why is that?  I do not know.  Is there an insufficiency of money available?  How can that be?  We are the numbers we are as a society, we work and pay taxes as we do … perhaps tax money is not being collected appropriately.  I feel I am paying enough to sustain schools at a minimal functional level, which is not what is happening right now.  Perhaps the structure of our tax collections is off.  Perhaps some sector of our society is just not contributing enough tax money to operate public services effectively.

Is it because the money is not being distributed properly once collected?  That’s a question for the State.  And it’s a political question of priorities.  The bottom line is, there is an insufficiency of money for our Local Education Agency (LEA) to distribute.  That fault lies up-state, or perhaps even federally.

Is it because the money that is available is not being used efficiently or properly?   Is there waste or graft among those who are supposed to be distributing it?  Why are there insufficient people working in our schools?  Is the money not going toward hiring them?  Is there an insufficiency of money or is it just all due to political decisions that distribute what could have been enough money, into different projects resulting in too few staff?

As a puny little parent, how can I possibly know?  Can I hire an auditor to assure myself there is no trickery going on with the money that is available?  As a voter can I ensure that some elected official makes sage consideration of how the money we have gets spent?  How can I affect a change that will put more people at work in our children’s schools?  How can I feel confidant that the person hired to administer the schools at the bidding of my elected official, is actually doing what they were asked to do?

Because this I know:  there are not enough people working in our schools.  And the claim is there is not enough money to hire more workers.  But we have somehow jerry-rigged a scheme that shunts an entire billion dollars worth of monies into electronics with a miniscule shelf life, that will likely be past by the time we receive the software contracted for it, software that while paid for, does not yet actually even exist:  it hasn’t been written.  This comedy of errors has been engineered by a set of truly exceptionally-highly-paid individuals in charge of deciding in what direction to spend the limited dollars that we have.  And these individuals serve at the behest of a set of politicians we the people voted for.  Where is the disconnect?  Why are our children not getting what they need?

Because in reality, the political decisions of where and how to spend our public dollars on our public school children, is being made for the benefit of private interests.  Not the public’s.  The public needs members of its public to attend to the young members of our public among us.  We need to empower and employ adults to nurture and support and teach our youngsters.  Data-collecting, electronically-bleeping slabs of metal will not:  clean toilets after a child has diarrhea; explain the kernel of math understanding embedded in data extracted from the internet; husband a safe space for learning history and playing with peers and developing social skills and uncovering language – the things our schools do are complex.  And they need staff to run the complicated institutions.  Machinery won’t do this.

When I pass a private school with immaculately manicured grounds of open, flowing and inviting spaces, and see classes of 15 children jogging peacefully about adjacent grounds maintained on the public dollar and utilized by this for-profit, exclusive institution, there is little question why a family would prefer their child spend their days in this environment.  In contrast, our public schools are slammed full of acres upon acre of chicken wire fences and forged steel gates, locked warrens of controlled spaces that demean the spirit and squelch the soul of students, faculty, and community alike.  This is the environment foisted upon the unfortunate denizens of our public schools and yet:  the kids in these schools are no “better” or “worse” than those attending private schools.  When children are supervised at a ratio of 1:15, these unpleasant methods and manners of control are unnecessary.  Private schools, and to some extent charter schools as well, are afforded the luxury of having human beings attend to their children.  Why the inequity?  Why cannot our public school officials bust apart this notion that a class size of 50 is acceptable?  It is not, pure and simple.  No.  We need more teachers hired to teach those kids individually in adequate, separate space.  Period.

There is a curious value to the methods of old:  waiting for personal interaction, affording a sufficiency of direct human contact in the learning process, in living itself.  Let’s get back to the future.  Let’s stop deluding ourselves that there’s some adequate work-around for the individual needs of our youth.  Our nation can afford to educate all children in the manner that the wealthy choose, with small class sizes amid pleasant surroundings.  We have simply to choose this curiously retrograde vision.