We hear all the time about companies making record profits, financial institutions handing out millions in bonuses to CEOs, even when their business loses money. As an educator I look upon such news and wish a fraction of that money could be allotted to education.
Instead we are bracing ourselves for even more cuts. And then, here comes the sequester.
Writing in her blog Alyson Klein argues that Arne Duncan’s claim that teachers are already being fired due to the sequester is an incorrect assertion (“Arne Duncan’s Education ‘Sequester’ Claims Questioned” 1). I do not claim to be in her league as a blogger but I have to disagree and raise my hand in support of the implied tenor if not the concrete adherence to Mr. Duncan’s statement.
In the school where I work we already know that next year we will have one less classroom teacher, no part-time counselor and our half-time librarian will become a half-time library assistant. These people know that they will be looking elsewhere for work, and I wish them luck. Our district is bracing for the closure of 11 schools. A memo from our superintendent outlines numerous position cuts. These jobs are already gone and the additional loss of funds from sequestration makes our choices become either bad or worse.
When did we decide as a country that short-changing the most vulnerable members of our society is acceptable?
Ms. Klein states:
” . . . districts have known the cuts were a possibility for a long time, more than a year. Many districts—including most that receive federal impact aid, which supports schools that have a lot of kids from a nearby military base or Native American reservation—have already planned for a possible reduction in federal funding.” 1)
Ms. Klein is correct when she states that most districts are already prepared for more cuts to their budgets but she is wrong in saying that doesn’t mean that people aren’t already planning to look for work because their job ends in May. Many teachers know that the sequester will simply make the likelihood of find a job that much harder and is tantamount to a pink slip. With their own families to support they must try to be proactive. The negative impact of continued cuts to education continues to be felt. Unfortunately in the education field we have been getting used to working with less each year for some time now. It doesn’t make teachers more effective, it makes them more dis-spirited and desperate.
And these continuing cuts have an even greater adverse impact. Many young teachers are seriously reconsidering their career choices. I speak to them every day; bright new-to-the field minds who have their efforts devalued or even denied. Seeing a pattern of less and less support for education and no opportunity to move into a financially secure position in their chosen occupation, many are seeking employment elsewhere. Anthony Cody writing in EdWeek says:
“The pressures we are subjecting teachers to are taking a toll. When our leaders hold schools responsible for overcoming poverty, teachers sometimes feel as if their work is never enough. And in addition to meeting all the needs of their students, teachers are also expected to constantly monitor data, communicate with parents, and even act as security guards when violence invades the school. Many teachers have families of their own, and find themselves in a losing race to meet the competing demands for their time and energy.”2)
Even those teachers who manage to hang on in the face of these pressures also have to face the very real possibility that their place in their chosen career will be sacrificed to the looming monetary crisis. The tragic part is that this current crisis is all created by our own government’s ineffectiveness. Dedicated professionals will lose their jobs, families will be denied important services, children will be placed in over-crowded classrooms and schools are deprived of needed personnel and materials simply because political posturing takes precedence over the needs of our citizens.
Yes, Ms. Klein we can prepare for still more bad news while at the same time we wonder, yet again, why it is happening?