A story I bumped into at www.telegraph.co.uk/ provides a unique insight into the types of things governmental agencies need schools to do when their budget numbers don’t add up to making ends meet. According to the article, the ministry of education in Spain has called upon its schools to limit student toilet paper usage to 25 meters (82 feet) per child per month.
The regulation and enforcement of this policy is deceptively simple. Take the number of students in your school, and multiply by 25, and that gives you the number of meters you need of toilet paper per month. Since toilet paper packaging tells you how many meters (or feet) of toilet paper are on a given roll, buying the proper amount of toilet paper based on mathematics is relatively easy.
However, it seems that this policy is leaving both instructional and support staff out of the equation, and as the Taro Gomi book kindly points out with its title, “Everybody Poops.”
Will schools in Spain simply not refill the toilet paper holders if they meet their monthly quota if they run out a week before month’s end? Or will they refill the toilet paper holders as needed until they simply run out of toilet paper and have none for the rest of the year? Perhaps they intend for their teachers to step up to the plate and provide toilet paper to enhance student performance by providing a worry-free lavatory visit.
Whatever route they choose to pursue, it is clear that times are not good for education, even overseas. Here in Michigan, teachers are already being asked to subsidize their own health care, and in some cases take pay cuts in order to subsidize their own jobs. It seems that the next logical step for Lansing might be to limit the amount of toilet paper a school can buy. Think of it as “belt tightening”, although people might not want their belts too tight if they have to wait until they get home to relieve themselves.
A toilet paper limitation policy could also discourage teachers from providing it as facial tissue in their classrooms as they often do. This practice may seem a little on the cheap side, but a teacher who purchases a single box of Kleenex for their class might see that box disappear in one or two weeks. Multiply the average cost of a box of facial tissue by the number of weeks in a given school year, and it is easy to see why simply purchasing facial tissue can be somewhat cost prohibitive. Even dividing by two doesn’t help the number much.
Free public schools are generally seen as a beneficial part of society. It helps relieve the burden of child care from parents and has the added benefit of ensuring that even the poorest people have access to knowledge that can help them better themselves.
However, teachers want to get paid for their work, as do school administrators, custodians, and all the other people who are involved in making the school operate. All the utilities the school requires to remain open want to get paid, too. This requires everyone in society to pay some nature of taxes (usually property taxes) to help finance the school.
When times get tough, tax revenue usually decreases stemming from decreased disposable income, decreased home ownership, and decreased payroll taxes collected from businesses. People still think that schools should be able to provide that free education regardless of a government’s ability to pay for it.
Instead of imposing hard-nosed austerity measures like limiting the amount of toilet paper students have access to, governments should investigate how they can better fund their schools. This may require cuts in military budgets, increases in property taxes, increases in payroll taxes, increases in individual taxes, other governmental cuts to less necessary programs or (gasp) politicians taking a pay cut themselves.
No one wants to see their pay get reduced or military spending decrease, or any other government-funded enterprise like police and fire protection diminish. People are also reluctant to see that the money the government is collecting is no longer enough to give them everything they want.
America, you have a choice. You can call your state representatives and senators and tell them to end our current wars, and use the money to shore up state educational budgets. You can also bite the bullet and accept higher taxes to ensure better quality education.
Or, you can phone your complaint into the principal of a school when your son or daughter comes home with skid marks in their underwear only to be met with: “I’m sorry, but our toilet paper has been strictly regulated by the state legislature as an austerity measure to combat our school district’s budget crisis. There’s nothing I can do for you.”