Every child in the US has the right to a quality education, and the American public school system has been responsible for ensuring that occurs — regardless of a child’s location or income level. But the public school system has been slowly starved of money, teachers and even infrastructure itself — an escalating problem, as the GOP uses these challenges to justify taking even more money from “failing” schools.
Now, the situation is dire as the gap between public and private schools grows even wider. Here are four things you may not believe are happening at schools these days.
1. There Is Still Tainted Water in Flint School Drinking Fountains
The Flint water crisis continues, with lead and other contaminants making tap water undrinkable. That doesn’t just affect the homes of the families in Flint, but it also impacts the water at the schools their children attend. Flint schoolchildren have not been able to use their own drinking fountains in years, and the situation doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
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“[S]tudents are drinking bottled water,” NBC News 25 reports. “But since the state has indicated it isn’t going to pay for that in the future, 4 companies have stepped forward to pay for it through June. After that there will have to be other arrangements.”
2. Baltimore Students Are Freezing in Their Classrooms
A severe winter cold snap proved just how fragile the infrastructure of many Baltimore schools really was, as failed heating systems and frozen pipes left many students huddling inside their coats for warmth in their own classrooms.
As the Baltimore Sun reports:
Nearly half of the city’s 171 schools experienced heating issues or burst pipes in the days since schools opened last week after the holiday break. In some schools students bundled up in coats, hats and gloves inside classrooms, scenes that went viral on social media. Unable to keep up with the number of repairs, the school system closed all schools on Thursday because of snow and on Friday because of continued heating problems.
The state had to allocate $2.5 million in emergency funding for repairs, but many express concerns that the funds come too late for the already deteriorating heating and plumbing systems.
3. Jackson Public Schools Are Closed Because They Have No Water
Water issues aren’t just for the more northern states, either. In Jackson, Mississippi, schools were closed for days due to city water main problems, which have left many buildings — including the public schools — without water for drinking, toilets or showers. According to one news report, “District staff said more than half of the schools and office buildings are experiencing low or no water pressure at all.”
That left public school children with no classes, and with no clear idea when school would start again. Meanwhile, according to one local mother whose children attend a private school, those students still have classes because their schools made accommodations.
“JPS is closed for the third day,” tweets Lori, a Jackson mother. “My kid is at school because her private school trucked in portable toilets. Because, money.”
4. Teacher Handcuffed for Challenging Pay
What it all comes down to is money — how little there is, and where that money gets allocated when it is available. That’s why one teacher in Louisiana became so angry when the school district superintendent received a pay raise, while teacher and staff pay was stagnant.
“‘You’re making our job even more difficult,” [Deyshia Hargrave] told the Vermilion Parish school board, according to video from CNN affiliate KATC,” CNN reports. “‘A superintendent or any person in a position of leadership getting any type of raise, I feel like it’s a slap in the face to all the teachers, cafeteria workers, and any other support staff we have.'”
She was ruled out of order and, when she refused to stop speaking, was accosted by a marshal who handcuffed her and took her to the Abbeville, Louisiana, jail, where she was released without charges.