As the Nevada Legislature chips away at the nation’s worst budget deficit, the cuts look to go especially deep in public education funds. And if these cuts go through, the damage won’t just be confined to the classroom.
Just today, news came of the Assembly passage of a bill to cut the school year by 10 days. Our own Clark County School District, one of the largest in the nation, is trying to tackle an estimated $400 million deficit. One method so far has been to cut funds for books. These cuts and much more are suggested to meet Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $2.4 billion cuts to the K-12 school budget. Increased class sizes, the elimination of programs, teacher layoffs, all-day kindergarten … and it’s just getting started.
And I haven’t even gotten to the proposed $162 million in cuts to higher ed! (The cuts could mean the closing of college campuses, the elimination of some 46 academic degree programs and more!)
All of this is deeply troubling for Nevada. After all, studies show that a college-educated population is less likely to be on welfare; has less crime; more community involvement; more charitable giving… or so Nevada Regent Bill Cobb would have us believe in this piece.
But all this only matters if you care about an educated citizenry. I mean, if you don’t have kids or your kids are all grown … or you hate your kids? … who cares about education anyway? Screw em! That’s what’s happening here, right?
Well, there’s something else happening, too. Women are getting screwed.
You see, women make up the majority of those who occupy education and education-related fields. According to this 2010 report (PDF) by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the education sector is dominated by women at 73.8%.
Indeed, women hold the following percentages of the teaching workforce:
- 45% of postsecondary
- 97% of preschool and kindergarten
- 81% of elementary and middle school
- 57% of secondary
- 85% of special education
- 82% of librarians
In fact, you could say that the budget cuts are the epitome of the Pink Collar Ghetto — the manifestation of depressed wages and low status in jobs dominated by women. Since the education sector is dominated by women, it is given less respect than other sectors. (Incidentally, the BLS report shows that 80% of social workers are women. So I guess it’s no surprise that these programs are getting cut, too?) By contrast, we aren’t hearing much about cuts to criminal justice divisions — cops and fire workers (13% and 4% female, respectively). I would argue that the education of our children is just as vitally important in the long term. But you’re not going to hear about cutting police departments by almost a third, like the governor’s higher ed cuts propose.
Is it any wonder that the conservatives have a hard-on to eliminate these so-called pink collar sectors?!
Conservatives on the state and national level are waging an unprecedented war on women on every front! Attacking women’s autonomy and personal liberty by attacking reproductive health care. Is it possible that conservatives’ hatred of the social safety net isn’t just about taxes and big government? Isn’t it possible that on some level they hate teachers, social workers, health care workers, counselors and any institution of learning because they represent huge numbers of the female workforce? (And, yes, this is one of many factors why women lag behind men in pay equity.) After all, to so many conservatives, the only space a women should occupy is in the shadow five steps behind her
master husband and barefoot and pregnant as often as possible. (I guess nobody ever told them about stay-at-home feminists!)
So, even if you don’t give a rat’s ass about education cuts, maybe it’s time to stand up for the women!