Hurray! We will receive an extra $3 to $4 million dollars from the state for our school district. Now we only have to cut $27 million, about 10 percent, from our budget. This after cutting 7 percent last year.
Much has been made of the macro effects of the drastic cuts to education: Increased class sizes, layoffs of both certified and classified staffs, cutting popular programs like outdoor education, and so on. Our district was forced to layoff 12 elementary librarians—this as more and more people demand that our students become wiser consumers of electronic information.
There is no doubt that these cuts will impact student learning. But I think we need to talk about the micro-impacts of cuts to education if we are to make any headway in ensuring that education is funded adequately.
For example, in my building we now have two deans for over 2,000 students. What does this mean? It means that teachers now have to assume many of the responsibilities that once were done by deans. With over 150 students in my classes, this has a detrimental impact on my ability to help students learn. One of my students has over 15 unexcused absences so far this quarter. Not school year, nor even so far this semester, I am talking about this quarter. In the past, deans working with counselors (we lost a counselor last year and now have four), would review attendance weekly and proactively respond to absent students. Not so this year.
The student’s family was going through an ugly divorce and the student was now under the care of a legal guardian. The student continued to miss class, so I wrote up a referral. I am not a big fan of writing referrals, but it is important to have a paper trail on students so future incidents can have some context. What was the consequence of the referral? Work detail and a phone call home. As well as a student pissed off at me because I had the audacity to write the referral. Since the referral the student has missed three out of four days.
The deans are overwhelmed. There are four weeks of school left and they just want to make it to the end of the year. To start the attendance matrix process would monopolize time that needs to be spent on other discipline issues; time spent monitoring the halls since we lost three campus supervisors last year; time spent on other duties picked up after losing clerical help in the office; time spent working with seniors who are in danger of not graduating.
I get it. But I also get the fact that this freshman, who is struggling to make it through my class, will be the senior struggling to graduate in three years.
This is but one incident of what the cuts to education mean to me and my school community. So educators, let’s see other stories. Stories that personalize and bring to life the impact that budget cuts have on our schools.
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