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Chihak: Schools crumble – and we worry about baseball

We wring our hands over teacher shortages, ignoring the fact that teachers are of more strategic importance than bankers, lawyers, athletes and just about any other profession that pays better.

We wring our hands over teacher shortages, ignoring the fact that teachers are of more strategic importance than bankers, lawyers, athletes and just about any other profession that pays better.

Don’t we need a high-quality public education system, boosting our economy and ingrained in our culture and sense of community pride?

Of course.

Then, shouldn’t we as a community be working urgently to save public education?

And shouldn’t business leaders come together to strategize and raise money to make schools better for our children?

Shouldn’t elected officials use the bully pulpit to decry any threat to our centuries-old tradition of good public schools?

Yes, but let’s prioritize: First, for heaven’s sake, we must work urgently, come together, raise money and enlist elected officials to save spring training. That part of our economy, culture and sense of pride is facing a dire threat, after all.

So we’re pulling out all the stops to save spring training.

Just as dire, and with much broader consequences, is the threat to public education.

Are we pulling out all the stops? Do we have a sense of urgency about it?

No. Instead, we barely notice, having become inured to the statistics: high dropout rates, low graduation rates, low national rankings in spending on schools and teacher pay.

Our economy reflects the results: Businesses won’t move here because they can’t get enough good workers, leading to a lack of good jobs, lackluster growth in household income and college graduates fleeing to more prosperous places.

We know that losing spring training would cost our economy $30 million. Our collective inattention to public education costs our economy many more times that.

So, why no urgency to save public schools?

Business groups and politicians have myriad task forces, committees and commissions supposedly working on it.

It’s all a bunch of blah, blah, blah. Here’s proof:

The Tucson Unified School District is coming apart at the seams. Yet there is no rush by community leadership to help.

We’re busy saving baseball.

The one group making an effort is the grass-roots Tucson Unified School Supporters. Its members are pushing for fiscal accountability and this week struck an agreement with TUSD’s charitable arm, the Educational Enrichment Foundation, to conduct an emergency money-raising campaign for the school district.

It’s all of a sudden an emergency because the threat to schools has come in an insidious, communitywide slide.

We all are responsible for it.

We eschew the responsibility by enrolling our kids in private and charter schools, then pointing fingers at public schools.

Teachers, superintendents, school board members, parents and the children themselves are at fault, we declaim.

We let schools deteriorate as the state Legislature slowly starves the system.

We do nothing to change standardized testing that aims to expose failure rather than encourage betterment.

We wring our hands over teacher shortages, ignoring the fact that teachers are of more strategic importance than bankers, lawyers, athletes and just about any other profession that pays better.

All of that is why public education faces a dire threat.

Yet no outcry is heard for saving our public schools. Top businesspeople are not urgently meeting to strategize, raise money and find other solutions.

No politicians are in full throat over this dire threat.

No outcry. No urgency. No political bully pulpit. Not for public education.

Instead, we’re spending time, brainpower and energy – and soon taxpayer money – to save spring training baseball.

Public schools will have to wait till next season.

If there is one.

Reach Michael A. Chihak at 573-4646 or mchihak@tucsoncitizen.com

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HOW TO GET INVOLVED

To help support the Tucson Unified School District, contact:

• Educational Enrichment Foundation

e-mail: eef@theriver.com.

• Tucson Unified School Supporters

e-mail: annevepedersen@yahoo.com

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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