The state of education in this state is scary. (You could probably insert any state in place of ‘this state’…)
Our school district alone is going millions of dollars in the hole next year, and the state is likely to approve an even bleaker budget for the year, if it manages to approve one at all.
Last school year, all the employees in our entire district agreed to take 2 furlough days to minimize the number of layoffs we would face and the impact the spending cuts would have on our students. Even so, hundreds of teachers received a pink slip in March and a second pink slip over the summer, with most of them ultimately managing to keep their jobs although the state budget didn’t pass until November.
Next year, we are looking at a potential salary freeze, class size increases of 50% or more (to over 40 students per class), and hundreds of actual layoffs–accounting for over 10% of the entire district staff. To forestall this, our local unit is attempting to bargain with the district to use the federal money that it currently has in reserves to keep teachers on the payroll and class sizes down, by instead asking us to vote tomorrow to offer to increase our instructional minutes each week for free, accept class size increases of 1-2 students per class at the secondary level (resulting in 10-15 layoffs instead of hundreds), and taking anywhere from 5-11 furlough days — with the first 5 being actual instructional days. [The reason given for this is that if we continue to take furloughs on non-instructional days as we did last year, no one knows–and no one cares, but if we keep the students home for 5 days, the problem becomes more greatly known.] If we take all 11 furloughs, we’ll face a 6% salary reduction–in case we were currently getting paid too much, or something. Either way, we’re being asked to vote on a choice of Bad or a choice of Bad. My district is surrounded by wealthier districts, in wealthier neighborhoods with large incomes from property taxes–and even these districts are looking at increasing class sizes, taking furlough days, etc., indicating that the problem is widespread.
My own job is most likely not threatened, as they can’t layoff special education teachers without risking being out of compliance with the law that requires a special education program for learning disabled students, but my students are threatened, as well as my pay.
The bottom-line question is this: why is education so poorly valued in America? Why must we look at decreasing instructional days when what we really need to do is increase them? Why must we look at decreasing staff when what students would actually benefit from is more personalized instruction? For all that the public complains about how little Americans know, and for all the government talks about how important it is that all students learn–I don’t see anyone putting their money where their mouth is. (Except for teachers, whom I see constantly sacrificing and taking pay cuts and spending their salary on their classroom so that their students will feel the effects of the budget crisis that much less.)
And this year’s students will be next year’s voters… and next year’s politicians.
“…Teachers! Leave those kids alone!”