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The Coming Tsunami in Education February 27, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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Arnold flexes his atrophied financial muscles.

When there’s a devastating earthquake in Haiti, and now Chile, Californians take notice.  We, too, live on the Ring of Fire.  I, for one, have already checked to make sure the flashlight next to the bed still works.  But the disaster that’s really been on my mind lately is a man-made disaster. I’m talking about the California Budget Crisis and the resulting tsunami headed toward a school near you.

For the record, California educates approximately 30 percent of the students in the nation, and has the most diverse aka challenging student population to boot.  Yet the state ranks 47th in its funding per pupil.  There are Third World countries that spend more per pupil than California does. The state’s budget for prisons is higher than its budget for education.  Hmmm. Do you think there could be a connection?

Despite all the talk about making budget cuts as far from the classroom as possible (to minimize the effect on students), in reality my own district is cutting 82 elementary teaching positions by upping the size of elementary classrooms. Forget 20 to 1.  Now we’re talking 32 to 1 in K-5.

This all seemed like a black cloud looming on a distant horizon, until I learned this week that in addition to the 82 teachers, additional teachers will lose their jobs due to declining enrollment and because of the reassignment of Curriculum Resource Teachers (CRTS) and Language Development Resource Teachers (LDRTs) back to classrooms.

So, that is why I was up at 4 a.m. (on a school night!) combing over the 70-page seniority list.  The RIF (Reduction in Force) notices go out March 15. That black cloud on the horizon now hovers overhead.  My fingers are crossed.  Not just for me and those whose jobs are on the chopping block, but for the students we teach.  These students are the future, and despite all this talk about how important education is, the tsunami from the budget cuts will have a profound effect on them. This disaster has been long in the making.  Did no one think to check the flashlight next to the bed?

Comments»

1. Catherine Sherman - February 27, 2010

I’ve got my fingers crossed for you and for the kids — they can’t lose you! I know you will be inspiring students for years to come! Why are the CRTS and LDRTS being re-assigned to classrooms? Lack of funding? Will the classroom teachers have to pick up the slack? Why is the student population shrinking? Are people moving away?

Cathy – The CRTs and LDRTs are “pseudo” administrators who are paid their teacher’ salary, but oversee testing, data, and various interventions. The student population IS shrinking because families are moving inland or out of state where they can find more affordable housing. Jan

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Elisse Stuart - February 27, 2010

In my district when jobs at the the district level, say TSA (Teacher’s on Special Assignment) are eliminated, the teacher has the right to “bump” back someone else. My school is at bare bones as it stands right now, so when teacher’s lose their postions around the district, they will have the right to bump other teachers. A copy of the senority list is growing dogeared.
Got to check my flash light batteries….

Elisse – Pretty much the same scenario here though the bulk of the RIFs are at the elementary level. Even if someone gets hired back come September, there’s no guarantee they’ll be at the same school or grade level. One of our district’s proposed cuts is to eliminate ALL librarians. Jan

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2. tina - February 27, 2010

In our district CRTs and LDRTs at the school level are not paid at a different rate than other teachers. It is only those at the district level who work a longer year and thus, have more earnings.

Tina, I think some of the CRTs and LDRTs have a lot more experience in the classroom, plus often a masters, so they’re already at a higher salary level to begin with. I think this is what fuels a lot of the talk about how if we lost a CRT/LDRT, we could save the jobs of two teachers. Thanks for clarifying this, as I thought there was a salary differential. 🙂 Jan

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3. Christine - February 28, 2010

This whole scenario makes me feel “guilty” for sticking with the teaching profession for fourteen years and getting a masters. I feel awful for younger colleagues who may be losing their jobs. I also feel for people my age (50s) who played by the rules, got educated, but lost their jobs in other professions due to the economy. All I can do is feel grateful and count my blessings. Hang in there and keep posting, Jan. You keep us connected to what’s really important.

Christine – I know so many hard working people, including my brother’s wife back in Michigan, who’ve lost their jobs after years of dedicated service. But there’s no jobs to be had. I think this could be the first time in our nation’s history that the middle-class lines up for unemployment benefits. I think it will help many who never thought they’d be in this situation empathize with those who’ve been struggling all along. It’s interesting that everyone I’ve talked to is most concerned about losing their health benefits. Jan

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4. Deb McCurdy - February 28, 2010

South Pasadena Unified Grade “A” Jug Band protests the California State Budget cuts to public education in this music video, which is based on Woody Guthrie’s 1937 original, “Do Re Mi”. In the video, the students beg the governator, Arnold Schwarzenneger, to please restore money to education. The jug band is comprised of students from K-5. The video was a collaborative effort between parents and students at South Pasadena Unified School District. Have a look . . .

Deb,
What a clever and wonderfully produced video! I just happen to reside in South Pas, so I know all too well the tireless fundraising parents and the SPEF do to support schools. And it’s still not enough. In my district, the majority of the middle class abandoned the public schools years ago, so we’re even more dependent on state monies. Our new program to fund technology involves collecting pennies (or nickels!) that will be matched. I think I have 13 cents so far.:( Jan

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5. shoutabyss - March 2, 2010

First, thanks for the reminder about my disaster kit. I need to get off my duff and get that done. I’ve been postponing it for something like five years now. I do NOT want to be paying $20 a gallon for potable water if I get caught in a disaster with my britches down.

The situation in California seems very dire. I find the “47th in funding per pupil” argument to be fairly compelling.

I consider myself extremely lucky the education I received at the hands of the public education system. There are teachers from high school that I remember to this day that I still just adore. And even though it was the early 80’s, our high school had a rockin’ computer lab, which was probably the biggest stroke of luck for yours truly. I’m very thankful for my education.

Good luck!

A rockin’ computer lab in the 80′? That is way cool! I’m sure you had teachers in elementary school school that you adored too. >wink< Jan

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6. BT - March 2, 2010

Fine. We can all complain and winge like crazy, but the truth is, California is out of money. Things may not get better anytime soon.

Why should education not have to take it on the chin like everyone else? My brother working for Cal Trans already has had a 20% cut in pay due to furlough days. Why should he have to suffer and we teachers not share it? If we don’t want job lay-offs, we can offer to take an across the board cut in pay. If there really is major waste, the waste should be segregated from the necessary. For example, why should recreational activities be paid out of education budgets [yes, that means football programs and even band]. Why should kids be bussed less than 2 miles? Many coaches and bus drivers already have jobs in school districts. If communities want sports, let the communities pick up the tab; privately run soccer and baseball leagues do a great job as it is!!

Using furlough days and keeping education monies for strictly educational purposes would save all kinds of classroom jobs. Until the State and local school boards get serious and creative about options to help, I refuse to join the riot of screamers demanding their “rights”. We are going to all have to sacrifice in coming years if business start-ups aren’t encouraged to settle in California. Businesses, large and small, create jobs, and job creation in the private sector will be the savior of the schools, not demanding the impossible of the idiots in Sacramento! Political correctness and over zealous environmentalism have sent too many money-makers packing out of this state. We have no one to blame but ourselves! It ain’t just Aaaaaahhhhhnold’s fault!

BT – There are many who could say mea culpa for this mess. I agree that Sacramento is populated with idiots, but since 80 percent of school funding comes from the state, they’re OUR idiots. I’d love to see the list of moneymakers who were driven out of the state due to political correctness. I guess I’m “screaming” about the rights of children to receive an equitable education. How PC is that? Don’t know about bussing for two miles or football – That’s sounds like high school to me. I hang with the little kids. I agree about reducing expenditures for anything that’s not school related, e.g., football. I guess that’s why our new budget eliminates ALL librarians. (Geez, I just reread what I wrote, and I sound downright crabby. But I’ve got my third case of laryngitis this year and we ran out of pencils today.) Jan

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7. Mark T. Market - March 6, 2010

Oh man, the exponentially more painful cost of all these financial crises is the dumbing down of the next generation due to cuts education spending.

Mark, It’s especially painful cause these quick fixes to shore up the budget in the short run have lifelong implications. I always tell my students the the one thing someone can never take from you is your education. It’s yours to keep. I just want it to be the best education possible. Jan

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8. The Reflective Educator - April 2, 2010

Good lord – 82 positions! And I was thinking about applying for jobs in CA……..

RE – Ultimately, 128 teachers got a RIF from elementary through high school. Elementary was hit the hardest since there will no longer be class size reduction of 20/1 in K-3. This is going to be the most educated unemployed group of people in this history of the state. Jan

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9. Janelle - April 13, 2010

I’ve been thinking about you and the mess in education that CA has created. Look on the bright side, you could teach in Montana, where they spend even less on teachers (try $18,000 a year to start), put them in rural school districts where the community hazes you if you teach the science standards instead of creationism, and the parents only ever call the school board if their child is sitting on the bench (the basketball bench). Sigh. And parents are revolting in NY for not being able to sell baked goods at schools to make money for their school districts. What a weird world we live in.

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