Okay. There's another reason I haven't wanted to write much prose lately.
It's called Stress. Over my everlovin' fund-cuttin' teacher-bashin' student-screwin' state legislature's decisions to cut education funding again and again and again. Halfway through the school year, as is the
My district, a large district, will lose an estimated $14.5 million as of December 20, 2009.
My building alone will lose almost $600,000.
This is not projected money, money that would be spent Down The Road that simply cannot be spent now. This is money that (because of the way things are done in this state) was already figured into the budget for the year before the state said Oh, sorry, did we say you could have that? Never mind.
This is money that pays for the programs that educate our youth, for the teachers and support staff who make the programs happen, and the facilities in which the programs are run. This is money that is spent to cover costs in a district that has already been paring away at spending and programs and jobs in an effort to absorb all the budget cuts made over the last several years.
So we are in Crisis. Crisis-mode decisions have been made, and the devastating results are already in play.
Last Thursday, after we
The next day three of them were told they will be laid off as of January 25th.
The fourth one is the next on the chopping block. Reality says she will not have a job next year.
The reason? One of the many cuts being made at the semester's end is the position of high school media center specialist (i.e. librarian.) Our
Now all four high school MC specialists have lost their positions. Each school will have one para-pro working in the MC half the day.
This will work well.*
As a result, those MC specialists (all of whom were once teachers and are certified) are being moved back into the classroom. Even the one who only taught for a couple of years and hasn't been in a classroom for twenty-five. They have the seniority, they have the certification, so they will go into the classroom and the low people on the totem pole are gone.
Thus, my peeps.
Don't get me wrong. I don't want the specialists to lose their jobs either and I believe (knowing the kind of people they are) that they will work their butts off to do well as teachers. That's not the issue.
What is an issue, besides my friends losing their jobs, is that all these cuts (and there are more than these, believe you me) will Not Be Enough. More are coming our way--if not during this year, certainly within the next couple. Our in-school custodians are losing their jobs as the district switches to a cheaper (and much less effective) outsourced company. Some secretarial positions are being cut, others put to half-time. Bussing may have to be cut. Elective and Fine Arts programs may disappear. Sports programs may even be cut--freshman and junior varsity teams are already on the list of possibilities.
Class sizes will very likely rise (we're already at 35). The middle school program may be changed drastically, leaving about fifty teachers either laid off or transferred to high school, which means lay-offs there. Our contract is up for negotiation this summer, and I have every expectation that we will be forced to take dramatic salary cuts and benefit changes/losses. More people will lose jobs. MAYBE even some administrators (and believe me, that's a true sign of a crisis).
I understand, to a certain extent, why this is happening. Michigan is in crisis too. The state does not have money and is cutting all sorts of programs. Education is not alone. Police and fire departments are being drastically slashed. Other programs are being cut entirely or severely underfunded.
And I know that not just state employees are suffering. Almost all of Michigan is suffering. I know many people who have been laid off and cannot find jobs. Believe me, I'm grateful that I have one.
In fact, yesterday I found myself counting up the number of English teachers in the district who stand between me and a layoff. It may be human nature, but I recoiled at my cold-blooded approach to reality: how many bodies (so to speak) must fall before I do? And how bad would things be that I, who have approximately 14 people buffering me from unemployment, would be on the chopping block?
The reality is grim. It has been for some time, but now I'm catching a glimpse of the Reaper in my peripheral vision.
However, I have to wonder: at what long-term price are we making these short-term decisions? How will overcrowded classrooms, lack of bussing, lack of enrichment and Fine Arts and sports programs, and (yes, I'm going there) underpaid and overstressed teachers create an educational environment that will draw crucial people and funds to this state? What are we sacrificing for the present crisis that will contribute to the long-term one? The experts waffle on when we will start emerging from this recession, but I can say this: unless positive decisions are made rather than negative ones, that journey will be a very long one. And at this rate, I believe we may drop down into a full depression rather than the "milder" recession sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, I'm glad the legislators are able to sleep at night.* Apparently they're so relaxed about the oncoming train of the December budget cuts that today they declared a hiatus from sessions and decided to take a two-week vacation.
Unfortunately, they left a lot of people stranded on the tracks.
*In case you can't tell, this is being said with Deep Deep Sarcasm.