Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stand up for schools. These are tough times.

Today, one of my colleagues who has been teaching for nearly 30 years stood up and talked to us about the scary financial situation our school, district, and state are facing. He said it's the worst he's ever seen. I haven't been teaching that long, but this just feels dire.

We've been in meetings all week. They've gone from depressing to worse. My heart was broken this summer when my school decided to drop the dance program after I fought and fought to see it stay. I can't say it surprised me, though. Arts and music are always the first to go in hard times. I had no idea how bad things are though. We don't have enough money for basic needs like copies, paper, and supplies. Forget anything having to do with enrichment--those things that make school fun and worthwhile. Our staffing is so low, the vice principals (who handle discipline) are facing a caseload of an outrageous number of students each. Textbooks won't be renewed until 2013. Teachers are looking at class sizes over 40 in most classes--and upwards of 55 in classes like PE.

It's an awful time to be a student in California. Times are so tough. There just isn't enough money to go around. For the first time in seven years, I'm having to ask parents for donations just to have enough supplies to make it through the year. Tenured teachers are in danger of losing jobs if the cuts go much deeper. We're looking at all kinds of possibilities from furloughs and pay cuts, to the loss of even more (desperately needed) support staff like counselors. Summer school and after school credit-retention programs have already been entirely cut. Landmark special funding for PE, music, and the arts was among the first to be "reabsorbed" into the general budget last year. Poof. Gone.

It makes me sick. Students are going to suffer. A teacher can only attend to so many souls at a time.

Check out this fact sheet from Save Our Schools. California has the 47th lowest per-student spending. We should be ashamed. K-12 schools have shouldered 60% of the California state budget cuts. We need to do something.

What can you do?

Call your legislator. 1-888-268-4334
Tell your legislator:
• You are a constituent that supports public schools.
• To stop cutting funding to our schools.
• And that investing in public education is an investment in our students and their
Email your legislator. Click here to find the information.

(Or, you don't have to do any of that. Here's the best thing you can do to help locally:)

If you know a teacher, ask what you can do to help. Most teachers spend a lot of money out of their own pockets just to make sure students have what they need in class. In a time when more and more students are coming to school without so much as a pen or sheet of binder paper, teachers could use your help more than ever. You have no idea how much the donation of a few supplies would help--ask any teacher you know and they will tell you what their kids need. Classrooms, libraries, computer labs, activities--these are all suffering right now. Any support you can give to a school near you is worthwhile.

As a teacher, I'm saddened, but as a parent of school-age children, I'm just angry. This just isn't right.


  1. No doubt the schools face serious shortages, but the facts is every element of government is facing shortages. Look at the crisis in law enforcement facing the county. You hear talk about the prisons, never mind that the prison population grew at a rate half the growth of the state, we're still hearing we over incarcerate and are going to let go millions of dangerous offenders.
    The myth of per pupil funding needs die, and I wish teachers lead the way on the fight. Do the math for a second, accepting for a second the lowest figures out there, $10,000 student (which I submit low-balls the spending by at least 30%). A classroom that averages 25 kids a day should have $250,000.00 allocated to. Let's assume 50% overhead for administration, etc. That's still $125k for the classroom. Do you see $125k for your classroom? More students, bigger numbers. The reality of schools in this state in country is that the schools have become a massive bureaucracy with leeches at every turn. Real reform, which teacher organizations have historically opposed, would eliminate bureaucracy. HP, look at your school: Site Administration, District Administration, County Administration, State Superintendent, State School, Governor's Office of Education. The schools pushed passage of Prop 98 that has historically overfunded schools as a % of the state budget. Now that chicken has come home to roost and the bureacrats take it out on the classroom. The best plan I've seen, a plan begging for teacher support, calls for the elimination of all existing state level bureacracy and limiting County Boards to uniquely county-wide ed. projects (like probation school). The state level would be replaced by the mechanism in place for law enforcement funding, an small agency essentially responsible for distributing funds and auditing spending. No policy setting. The impact: schools at the local level could split the savings with the state. The result would pay off the state deficit and then some, while increasing funds at the school site level by 50%! But too many organized groups (PTA, CTA, NEA, textbook lobby) have a vested interest in the current systme. I won't be asking my legislator to feed the beast any longer. They need to kill the beast.

    Jake R.

  2. Sorry for the hyperbole on "millions". Scores of thousands.

  3. Hey, we need good teachers here in TEXAS!!! No cuts goin' on here! :) Sorry things are so depressing there. It's hard to read when it's happening to someone you know.