By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Oceanside Teachers Association member and seventh-grade social studies teacher Bob Sustachek at Martin luther King Middle School.
"Back to school" is traditionally a time of anticipation, excitement and hope. School employees look forward to working with a new batch of students, trying new strategies, and using last year's successes and failures to improve outcomes in the new year. This year, however, is different due to unprecedented cuts. In addition to anticipation, you might be feeling worry or anxiety at the beginning of the school year.
You might feel discouraged, having seen colleagues receive pink slips in the first round of budget cuts, and then again in the unprecedented second round of late-summer cuts. Beloved and innovative programs that took years to build at school sites may have been downsized or dismantled entirely.
Due to layoffs, you may be reassigned to a different grade level, have new and different responsibilities, or be transferred to a different school site if your campus was closed for lack of funding.
Schools typically increase combination classes to save money, so instead of teaching just one grade, you might be responsible for teaching two different grade levels with two sets of curricula and two sets of standards. School districts throughout the state are increasing class sizes, necessitating the need for crowd control.
These changes are bad for students, teachers and classified school employees. They are bad for teaching and learning. And in the long run, inadequate school funding will cost California dearly.
More than $18 billion has been cut from schools and colleges. This is the single largest cut to public education since the Great Depression — with K-12 schools taking 60 percent of the state budget cuts. But there's some good news: Thanks to the work of CTA, the budget agreement protects the state's minimum school funding law, Proposition 98, and will repay schools and colleges more than $11 billion.
Surviving is not enough. We must make our voices heard so the public realizes that it is not business as usual at schools, even if the grass is green and the flag is flying. "We must tell our story to the public," says CTA President David A. Sanchez. "We must start by educating ourselves and our members. It's time to change the debate in Sacramento. But first, we must change conversations in our local communities to build a movement that supports more funding for our public schools."
The following articles will offer some new coping techniques for CTA members experiencing the challenges this new school year presents. For survival tips we sought out real experts — school employees who have lived through these experiences. Their advice is wise, practical and sometimes humorous. And best of all, during these tough economic times, they are willing to share it for free.
STAND UP FOR SCHOOLS
Now is the time to STAND UP FOR SCHOOLS! The movement behind Pink Friday did not end on March 13. We must continue in our efforts to bring awareness to what is really happening to public education in California. You can play an active part by sharing your story, e-mailing your legislator, or writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. Visit www.standupforschools.org and join the movement! (see story, Continue to Stand Up for Our Schools)