State budget will have harsh effects on our students

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $4.4-billion education cuts have forced local schools to send notices to teachers of a possible layoff by the June 30 deadline to more than 2,000 teachers countywide (warned of the possible layoff by March 15). That is about 8 percent of local teachers, Union-Tribune reports. In one school, 37 of the 38 teachers were given “pink slips.” More than 500 school workers at the Chula Vista Elementary School District received layoff notices. It’s the district’s attempt to trim their budget. The announcement of the final state budget doesn’t occur until July, which is after schools have already planned their school year budget and their “doomsday scenario.” The Voice of San Diego News says, “The question of how seriously to take the state forecast – and whether sending layoffs notices are prudent or panicky – is hotly contested.” Teacher’s union president, Camille Zombro, states that, “In 2003, 1,400 notices were issued to teachers [and] ultimately, none were laid off.”

And who are these teachers. They have less than five years of teaching experience and don’t have tenure, but as one teacher from San Clement says “I have a five-year degree and I’m working on a master’s degree. I was looked at as a highly qualified teacher, and now I’m looking for an alternative job for next year.” Another said, “I know teachers with multiple credentials … who are being laid off.” Fourth-grade teacher Ben Champion was voted Teacher of the Year at Baker Elementary School last year although he also received a layoff notice. How can their jobs be so disposable?

If we take the scenario that all these teachers are laid off, what kind of devastating outcome would we have on our hands? That would add an additional 11 students into each one of the already 20-student filled classrooms. Summer school programs have already announced that they will be cut from some elementary schools. Eighty-nine counselors have been given a layoff notice and that would put one counselor to 4,000 elementary students and one to 600 or even 900 in one case and at the high school anywhere from 1 to 450 or 600. The Carrell & Carrell research has indicated with less presence of counselors the probability of disciplinary problems are greatly increased. Art and music classes are being cut as well as school nurses and physical education teachers. “The ones who need education the most will slip through the cracks,” said first-grade teacher Meagan Baedeker. From the SDUSD Counseling Corner newsletter, Earlene claims that, “The entire educational community will suffer as a result, most importantly, the children.”

The CTA newsletter claims that in 1970’s, “California’s public schools were reputed to be excellent. Today, that reputation no longer stands.” Here are some interesting demographics about California thes reported in the same newsletter:

  • In 2000, California had the largest population of 5-18 year olds in the nation followed by Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois.
  • One in 10 Californians is a recent immigrant (a foreign-born person who entered the US in the past 10 years). By comparison, not even 1 in 20 persons nationally is a recent immigrant.
  • One in five children in California lives in a family whose income is below federally established poverty thresholds. Child poverty is most prevalent in the central valley which ranks in the poorest tenth of the nation’s counties.
  • In 2001, California had the second highest ratio of pupils to teachers in the nation. About 20.9 students to one teacher. The US average is 16 to 1.

In 1970, the newsletter still claims, California spent $400 above the national average per pupil and in 2000, California spent $600 below the national average per pupil and in 2001 California ranks 32nd in teacher salaries, lower than the national average. California also ranks 48th (just above Louisiana and Mississippi) in terms of NAEP scores (National Assessment of Educational Progress). “When family background is controlled for, California scores are the lowest in the nation.”
Taking it even closer to home, San Diego Unified is California’s second-largest district and Long Beach, it’s third largest. Voice of Sand Diego says, “Yet while San Diego warns teachers of hundreds of potential layoffs, Long Beach Unified won’t lay off any permanent teachers. Long Beach plans to steer clear of firing teachers by halting hiring, paying substitutes less, leaving vacancies vacant, shortening the work year, and shifting costs away from the day-to-day budget, charging other funding sources instead.” The article goes on to say that “those cuts aren’t painless ... Nor were all school employees spared. While Long Beach’s cuts will impact the education system there in other ways, the lack of fired teachers has left the district free of the rancor seen here recently in San Diego.”

All this information is absolutely sobering and our students are at the core of the affects of this ongoing problem. Our students may not be getting the education we received in the ‘70s and what is going to happen to their economy in 10 to 20 years? If jobs are going overseas, will the next generation be prepared and have the education to sustain the higher paying jobs? How does all this talk of layoffs and budget cuts going to affect our children’s livelihood, their culture arts, and their ongoing education?

I sent out an e-mail to many parents and teachers in the community to receive their feedback on the imposing teacher layoffs to find out if they were outraged or hopeful regarding the recent teacher-layoff announcement. To my surprise, no one responded. Does that indicate that parents are apathetic or don’t believe the news reports, or is all this information too conflicting and we don’t know who to believe. Here is the undeniable fact: teachers have a huge influence on our children’s lives and more often then not help guide our children in the path that they take. Teachers pour into our children’s lives and spend, sometimes, more time with our kids then we do. Occasionally my son accidentally calls me his teacher’s name and he also inadvertently calls his teacher “mom.” That’s how much time teachers spend with our children. How can their jobs be so disposable? The school budget cuts and the threat of teacher’s layoffs are a crime and our students deserve better. Let’s write to our governor telling him how important it is to get our public schools back to a position of reputable status.

To voice your opinion on the situation, I encourage you to write to:

Governor Arnold Swarzenegger

State Capitol Building

Sacramento, CA 95814