COMMENTARY | Education is looking anything but golden in the state of California. As Obama fights to reform higher education, and California Governor Jerry Brown struggles to balance a deficit budget, school districts, teachers, parents and voters face some very tough decisions in the next month.
In communities all across California education is in a crisis. With the state sending IOUs for the last several years to attempt to correct the downward spiraling budget mess, school districts have been scrambling to create 'Band-Aid' plans to close their budget gaps. Retirement incentives, teacher and employee concessions, property taxes, and fundraising donations have all helped keep schools afloat, but I fear that the time has come when we just cannot swing it that way anymore.
According to The Davis Enterprise, nearly 137 teachers will receive layoff notices on March 15-equating to nearly 30 percent of the entire teaching population in the school district. California mandates that school district issue layoffs by this date; if not notified, teachers are due to be rehired. Teachers like me, who have dedicated their entire careers to educating our community's children, will now have budgets balanced on our backs. Of the three options outlined by the Davis Enterprise to close the district's $3.5 million deficit, all include some sort of salary cutback for teachers. Over notifying teachers results in undue stress, loss of productivity and the likelihood that some teachers will look for other, more secure jobs. Everyone knows teachers are not in this profession for the money, but do we really have to be the ones to always feel the pain?
While elective and secondary teachers (me included) are not escaping the chopping block, hardest hit this round will be elementary school educators. California's class size reduction program has allowed elementary schools to run smaller classrooms K-6th grade, the logic being that a smaller student to teacher ratio will improve instruction and student learning. However, for many school districts facing devastating cutbacks, this effective program is up for elimination. Forcing elementary school teachers to be spread more thinly will certainly result in further kids falling through the cracks-especially in reading. Those educational deficits will remain. Many children, who fail to become strong readers by third grade struggle through their middle and high school grades, develop 'behavior problems' and fail to graduate and/or meet college admissions requirements.
Sounds dire? Well, it is. Our country needs to find a better way to solve our education crisis than directly targeting those who are on the frontlines-our teachers and our students. Telling educators to learn to do 'less with more' is insulting. I invite those critics to spend a day in my classroom with 30+ teenagers trying to improve their reading and writing skills while battling puberty, social insecurities and the pressure of college admissions.
Issuing layoff notices to the very people who are toiling every day to improve the lives of our children is not the way to go. The children still need to be educated. California, you can do better.