Of Power Companies and Education

We recently returned from a quick trip to DC. The DC-Maryland-Virginia area has been hit hard by a weather system which resulted in many downed tress and, even during our visit, many in the DC area were without power days after the storm itself had passed.  Pepco, Old Dominion, BGE – the area utility companies had many reasons for the delays in getting power restored to customers, many of whom were sweltering in temperatures topping out at 106.

With many downed trees and utility poles, the work to restore power was slow and painstaking. For those of us who live in he Northeast, the memory of the snowstorm last October was similar. Electricity is a basic necessity in modern times and going without causes lots of hardships.

Now how does this vignette connect to education?

In Juliette Kayem’s op-ed piece in the Boston Globe, Pulling Plug on Nation’s Security,she states that the ultimate fix to vulnerable power lines is to bury them. There is resistance to this idea as it is “expensive”; I believe the number quoted in Ms. Kayem’s piece was $6 billion in the DC area for fully burying all lines. It is the ultimate fix, but it is an investment that requires quite a large outlay of capital.

Isn’t that a lot like what public education is today? Lots of piecemeal programs enacted to make the big “problem” disappear… for a while. Investing in education is expensive. Educating a generation so that they become productive members of society 15-20 years later is expensive.

The ultimate “fix” for education is not going to be found in band-aid programs that provide a small amount of help for a small amount of time. Like burying utility lines, it will need a sustained investment which, to date, our government does not seem to want to make.