The Coming Tsunami in Education February 27, 2010Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
Tags: California Budget Crisis, California Schools, Education, Groovy Snowdome, Reduction in Force, RIF, RIF notices, Teaching
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?
C is for Chaos June 19, 2009Posted by alwaysjan in Politics.
Tags: California Budget Crisis, Class Size Reduction, Economy, Education, Politics, Ranting, Recession, RIFs, Teacher Layoffs, Teaching
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When I got up this morning (Ahhh, first day of summer vacation) my husband was reading the newspaper. “It seems like it’s on the verge of exploding,” he said. I thought he was talking about my school district. Turned out he was talking about Iran.
What a colossal mess the state of California has made. And who’s going to pick it up? Us. The people. And teachers, of course. We’re good at picking up messes (primarily messy parenting).
Friday, after teachers had packed up their classrooms for summer vacation, emails arrived from our union. The RIFs (Reduction in Force notices) keep a comin’. Bottom line: Thirty-four MORE elementary teachers in the district are to be RIF’d. Also included in the cuts are a smattering of English, History, and PE teachers at the high school level.
My district isn’t huge, so that’s a lotta people. People who have children. People who have rent and mortgages to pay. People who are still paying off their student loans so that they could become a teacher. An updated seniority list is to be released next Wednesday, so everyone’s on edge. It reminds me of the classic movie Lifeboat. Supplies are running low and everyone’s looking to see who’s going to be thrown overboard next. (What’s that scent you’re wearing? “Chum?”) The sharks are circling.
For the record, my job is not in jeopardy, but those of many of my colleagues and friends are. It’s not like the students are going anywhere. If anything, we’re starting to see a slow exodus of students arriving from private school whose parents can no longer foot that bill.
I always tell people that when it comes to school, I expect chaos, so I’m never disappointed. That said, I’m disappointed. In the state. In the city. In my district. I don’t have enough fingers to point.
We’re not the only district in trouble. The Los Angeles Times ran a story today about how teachers in that district have “accepted a new contract that includes no pay raise for last year, this year or next year, but will allow them to take formal contract grievances public.” According to the story, “more than 2,500 UTLA members could be laid off as of July 1.” Ouch!
Freezing salaries opens yet another can of worms. I start a master’s program (along with two other teachers, one who’s been RIF’d) next week. I’ve already paid $1400 for the first quarter’s tuition. I don’t mind telling you that I’m getting my master’s for the salary bump. If salaries are frozen, where does that leave teachers like me?
This is not a script with a happy ending – Not for those teachers laid off, or for those left to manage herds of children come September.
My son Taylor forwarded me the following email. Food for thought.
In a small town in the United States, the place looks almost totally deserted. It is tough times, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.
Suddenly, a rich tourist comes to town.
He enters the town’s only hotel, lays a 100 dollar bill on the reception counter as a deposit, and goes to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one.
The hotel proprietor takes the 100 dollar bill and runs to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the 100 dollar bill, and runs to pay his debt to the pig farmer.
The pig farmer runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel.
The supplier of feed and fuel takes the 100 dollar bill and runs to pay his debt to the town’s prostitute that in these hard times, gave her “services” on credit.
The hooker runs to the hotel, and pays off her debt with the 100 dollar bill to the hotel proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she brought her clients there.
The hotel proprietor then lays the 100 dollar bill back on the counter so that the rich tourist will not suspect anything.
At that moment, the tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms, and takes back his 100 dollar bill, saying that he did not like any of the rooms, and leaves town.
No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now without debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the United States Government and the State of California are doing business today.
The Party’s Over June 13, 2009Posted by alwaysjan in Politics, Teaching.
Tags: Budget Cuts and Education, California Budget Crisis, California Teachers and Budget Crisis, Class Size Reduction, Classroom Management, Economy, Education, English Language Learners, First Grade, Humor, Ranting, Second Grade, Teaching, Third Grade
The notice was put in the teachers’ mailboxes today (Friday afternoon). The bottom line – Due to the state of California’s severe budget crisis, the gates of Hell have been thrown open. We’d already been told that class sizes in September were going from 20 to 22. But today we were informed that class sizes could go to 25, or as high as 31. Oh, and that there could be layoffs of teachers as late as August 15th. There was no Happy Hour today. The mood amongst teachers was bewildered, even somber.
My first year of teaching was in 1997, when the state had just reduced the class size in grades K-3 to 20 to 1. Oh, the stories the veteran teachers could tell – of teaching 35 of those wiggley, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom!” first graders. And they were still standing (the teachers that is). I’m afraid that 20 to 1 is all I’ve ever known. I did a stint of student teaching in the fourth grade where the class size is typically 30+, but those kids are big and can sit in a chair (okay, most of them). It took me three weeks just to memorize all of their names.
I’m not worried about my job. This is my fifth year with the district, but other colleagues, who are also my friends, aren’t so lucky. When the first round of RIFs (Reduction in Force notices) went out on March 15, teachers lower in seniority were put on notice. In years past, this was always a formality, and they were hired back come September, when the classes filled up. But these are strange times.
According to the local paper, 160 students at a local Christian school are leaving due to their parents’ own budget crises. I’m pretty sure those kids will be coming to a school near me, and it will have the word “public” in in. But, how this will sort itself out is anybody’s guess.
It didn’t help that the news came after a long day of trying to pack up the classroom while keeping the students busy engaged. I believe I am the only teacher in history to accomplish this without showing the students a movie. A group of boys constructed an Amazonian forest in a huge cardboard box, while another group of students was busy “stitching” on their burlap flags. Stitching is not to be confused with “sewing,” which is a girlie pursuit. I fashioned “needles” out of paperclips and the kids went to town and did a surprisingly good job. Only later another teacher informed me that there were in fact real big plastic needles the kids could have used. Oh. I’m big at reinventing the wheel,
I only mention this because none of these activities would be possible with 30 plus kids in the room. Someone literally might poke their neighbor’s eye out with that paperclip due to lack of elbow room. Come September, space in my classroom could be disappearing as rapidly as the rain forest in the Amazon.
This gives a whole new meaning to June Gloom in Southern California.
Photo credit: The Unruly Birthday Party by Jan Marshall.