Even though I left last night's PTA meeting feeling pretty good about the future of our little school, there were three bits of business that troubled me. Actually, they made me pretty angry.
First, our school's commercial-grade dishwasher has been "condemned" by the district. Apparently it was original to the school when it was built in 1950-something and has broken to the point where it cannot be repaired. So does the district install a new dishwasher? No. There is apparently some obscure ratio of students/teachers/staff that decides whether a school NEEDS a dishwasher, and our school doesn't have the right ratio. Instead, the kids eat off Styrofoam trays that release all sorts of fun chemicals and MELT when hot food is put on them. Each day the school uses enough trays to fill a dumpster and then pays $100 per day to get the dumpster emptied. Because all that is apparently better than buying a new dishwasher. So the PTA and the soon-to-be-formed environmental club are going to research the cost of a new dishwasher and the cost of hiring someone to wash the dishes and see if the PTA can donate the money to the school.
Second, the school's photocopier can't keep up with the demand. The school doesn't have the money for a second one, so the PTA is looking into leasing one for the school, at a cost of $6,000 for two years. This started a bit of a commotion at the meeting, because some man kept yammering about how he works with copiers all the time and knows how we can get one cheaper. Nevermind that the PTA has to go through the district's leasing office to get the copier. The guy wouldn't let it go until the treasurer, the divine Lisa R, asked him he'd like to make a motion to research copier leases. He said no. As is typical with those kinds of folks, when it was time to put up or shut up, he shut up. Too bad he had to annoy everyone and slow down the meeting first.
Third, the PTA donated $50 to each classroom for school supplies. It's great that the PTA did this, it really is. But I'm upset because I know that $50 doesn't even begin to cover what the teachers use in the classroom and because I know that the teachers will each still spend hundreds out of pocket to buy stuff.
All of these things made me angry because they proved yet again how low a priority our local, state and federal governments put on education. It is beyond ridiculous that the school district hasn't replaced the dishwasher in the school. Raising funds for a dishwasher should not have to fall to the PTA. It is insane that the teachers all have to line up to use a copier that overheats and shuts off at about noon every day. Their alternative is to go to a copy shop and pay for copies out of pocket. And finally, teachers who barely get paid subsistence wages should not have to be shelling out their hard-earned money for classroom supplies. That is beyond wrong.
Our country is wasting flying spaghetti monster knows how much money in so many ways - the quagmire in Iraq springs to mind as one example - but our schools go lacking for basics.
Last night's meeting was enough to get me pretty riled up. I've now volunteered to handle the e-mail newsletter, monthly print newsletter, and PTA Web site and coordinate the spring book fair. I realized that instead of shaking my fist and railing about our president and the wrongs he's committed, I can instead actually do something to make one part of my world a better place - and I'm picking our school.