Teacher Layoffs Sweep The Nation

teacher layoffsArnold Schwarzenegger made a name for himself as the Terminator when he was a young Hollywood actor. Now as the governor of California, he has become a Terminator of a different kind. Instead of being an unbeatable fighting machine, Schwarzenegger is a fighter in an education battle that is sweeping the nation.

Arnold is one of many politicians firing teachers and privatizing public education systems because of financial issues. In 2009, California fired 16,000 teachers, and in March 2010, California handed out 23,000 pink slips that let teachers know they may not have a job next year.

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Since the start of the year, 66 percent of school districts across the country have made cuts that include: firing teachers, cutting arts programs, and dismissing other school personnel deemed costly or unnecessary. That means that 34 out of 50 states have doled out firings in the past four months.

"What's happening in education today is unprecedented. Public education is being attacked," says Donna Stern, national coordinator for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigration Rights & Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).


Forces behind the firings

There are two major forces driving these teacher firings nationwide: economics and privatization. The economics factor is easy to understand. The nation's economy is struggling, and because real estate taxes fund public schools, poor counties or states that are in a budget crisis -- like California -- are cutting spending wherever possible. The privatization of education is a more complex issue that focuses on whether the federal government should turn control of the nation's public school system over to private companies. According to edweek.org: "Advocates of privatization ventures see in them the combined virtues of government and business. They argue that government's oversight function and its responsiveness to the needs of citizens can be retained while taking advantage of private enterprise's ability to be more efficient, reduce costs, and maximize production-in this case, student achievement."


'Race to the Top'

The U.S. Dept. of Education "Race to the Top" program aims to improve public education by targeting four specific areas and thereby advancing reform. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is the mastermind behind this incentive program that rewards states that implement certain education measures and standards (usually standardized test scores in math and English), and punishes states that refuse to adhere to these reform measures.

Duncan is in charge of allocating $4.3 billion in education funds. States must participate in the "Race to the Top" competition if they want some of that money. For example, Tennessee and Delaware both agreed to be held to the testing standards outlined by the program, so they were awarded federal funds to help improve their public school systems. States that decline to be part of the program will not see any federal dollars for education.


Fighting back

On April 6, BAMN held a press conference on the "Mobilization Against 'Race to the Top" at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. The press conference was attended by local educators and activists, as well as representatives from several of the contingents who plan to attend the April 10th March on Washington to Defend Public Education from California, Michigan, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

These five states share a serious crisis in their public school systems. Plagued by financial concerns, these states are leaders in teacher firings, the growth of charter schools, and the use of standardized test scores as the only measuring stick of a student's potential. Stern says: "It is going to be the welfare zone of education. It will just be condemning; education used to be the great leveler, and now with privatization, the competition pits everyone against each other and destroys communities."


Teachers speak out

Are you concerned about the future of the school systems in this country with so many firings going on? Think about how the thousands of laid-off teachers must feel about it! Robert Smith* was a former mass media arts teacher with the District of Columbia public school system when he was fired just five days before his wedding. A victim of the Reduction in Force (RIF) measures that swept through the East Coast earlier this year, Smith was lucky enough to secure government contract work after his teaching days ended abruptly.

"It disorients you," he says. "In one day you not only lose your job, but you lose the countless students who you have enjoyed teaching. I felt empty and lost."

Smith believes that these mass firings send a message of distrust to students, parents and educators. "It also sends a message that we need to be more involved with our educational system. If these children do not receive a quality education, what will they become?"


The future of education

Sweeping layoffs, pink slips, RIF, closing of public schools, reduction of arts programs and the rise of charter schools are becoming prevalent practices in our education system nationwide and an increasing source of tension and argument among policy-makers, educators, businessmen, corporations, communities, parents, families and students.

With so many decision-makers involved in this process, and with so much money up for grabs in the educational arena, there is no way of knowing if this is the calm before the storm or the storm itself. All that we can say for sure is that the great equalizer is unpredictable at this point.

(*) name changed to protect the identity of the source

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Gwen Parkes

Gwen Parkes

Editor

Gwen Parkes is a seasoned writer and editor and a subject matter expert (SME) on healthcare and healthcare reform. She spends her days freelancing for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and various publishing houses. Parkes exercises everyday to cleanse her mind and find her inspiration- running and hot yoga are her current devices of choice- and she is an amateur chef and self-proclaimed foodie; she believes that good supermarkets are happy places, a good Pinot Noir goes with everything and coffee should be served hot, with cream and sugar and as frequently as necessary.

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California Teacher

Robbie,

Next time you correct one of my posts please take the time needed to find all of the errors in my poorly written post. You are doing me a disservice by not fixing all of the errors I made. I feel that your lack of attention has short changed me by not giving me your all.

Since you love editing posts, I plan to send you all of my posts and my students' writings before they are published so each one can be "Robbied". This is my new term when a better writer takes his/her time to mentor someone who is not as skilled. I will be more than happy to pay you for your time and effort.

You are right on about teachers. I got into the teaching field because I didn't want to work hard. I care very little about my students because to me they are just bodies. Once the school year ends I do not care one bit what happens to them.

Please read this post I was going to submit to another site. I wanted you to see it before I posted it for everyone. Once you have corrected my work then I will post it. Here it is:

the kat jumped over the lasy dog



April 24 2010 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to California Teacher's comment
alex

In many cases you can thank your UNIONS. Greed and more and more. Sure administration is fat...go back to teaching kids "how to think" rather "what to think." Run off the deadwood and set up incentives at all ends of the scale. And for the perfect spellers...take your arrogance and go to work in Washington...they are hiring.

April 14 2010 at 6:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jack

Here is the real deal. I put in, 36 years, 5 months and 6 days with the wonderful New York City Board of Education. The problem is that the schools need to bring back voacational schools. Not everyone should go to college. We need people to man the professions and they would earn a living at least as well as the college grads. Many of the children do not retain the knowledge from day to day. This is either due to the negative home environment, their not into schooling, pier pressure or a myriad of other reasons. But, the bottom line is that their disruptive behavior stops the ninety five percent of the other kids from learning.
By the way, if the Governator and the governor of New Jersey want to keep the budget balanced, how's about a one year wage freeze for ALL public employees in the state. While we're at it, let's eliminate all the perks for the private sector. How about getting rid of all the lunches and dinners on the company credit card which taxpayers support. Let's get rid of all the off-the-books jobs which would pour billions into the economy. California, New York,Florida and Texas are in terrible shape partially because of the hundreds of thousands of children of illegal immigrants, oh pardon me--undocumented aliens who come here, pay no taxes, get public assistance, bang out the kids and we have to give them free medical aid and education.
What a sham!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 13 2010 at 9:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andre

Glad I have left the once honorable Profession

April 13 2010 at 7:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LadyJane50

I can't help but wonder if Illegal Immigrants are the real core reason for public schools closing and teachers being laid off from their jobs. On CNN television news, I learned about 2/3 of students in some of the public schools did not know English before enrollment into classes; those schools had mostly hispanic and oriental students. I think we need tough laws on enrollment for these public schools: every child must be able to pass an "English Proficiency Exam" before being accepted for enrollment in public schools.

If English was an "official" language and not just a "national" language, this problem of public schools closing probably never would've taken place.

April 13 2010 at 5:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
richard

The cost of education is heading toward no schools, just computerized classes, text, and tests. At that point, we really don't need school buildings which will save even more money. Home schooling will be the norm, but the sacrifice is no more human development. Until this stupidity wave hits the major sports and entertainment industry, I suspect we are head to a very disappointing future. Socialization skills have already been lost. When was the last time your kids actually used their cell phone to talk to someone rather than text a message? And what physical activity is gained from a hand held controller for some stupid video game. Virtual living vicariously through the computer should put us under as a society soon.

April 13 2010 at 8:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
richard

I'm thinking the long range implication of this is computerized education, at home, that doesn't require a school building, marching bands, football teams, etc. Which means at some point we'll no longer have real celebrities, athletes, musician, doctors, lawyers, or any other profession other than IT personnel. Get ready for obsolete humans, and a world entirely run by computers. Who needs a human when the technology exist to create computer graphics and images. It will cost less and be more profitable.

April 13 2010 at 7:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
flippin

to ALEX.
That is not true.
Teachers do not have to have a Degree in the area they are teaching.
Teachers only need a 4 year degree of any subject if none at all and only the basics.
A nurse with a 4 year degree.
A person who has a degree in Religion.
They then apply at the Public School.
They get hired.
They apply with the state while teaching..
They take the state exam while teaching..
so get facts straight.
good luck.

April 13 2010 at 7:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
flippin

To PSYCHDOC

Wow!!! you are knocking working at McDonalds?! ? ! ?
The Ronald McDonald's House too?
You should be so ashamed.
Hope you never ever drive-through McDonalds or eat there EVER again !.
Besides, what happened to the barn schools with 1 teacher?
Kids had to walk miles to school, no running water, no ac.
You are so "spoiled".
Grow up and quit complaining or quit....
Better yet, You should only pray you are good, because you may find yourself filling out an application for hire at McDonald's. I love McDonalds. They give help to sick kids.
They are the laughter behind the chicken nugget.
They will hire only those who can work at a fast pace and learn many areas for little pay. Can You? Would You?

Parents or the grandparents are the only teachers we need anyway. Even if one parent stays home, so what, don't need that second vehicle or that extra gas money..etc. It levels out.
School clothes, lunches, field trips, material, they are expensive. Most families multiply that times 2-3 kids.
Get out there and do what you get paid to do. Show up 8-9 months of the year and get paid for summers off.
Wow! tax dollars at work.
FYI: a pay cut could mean WE ARE OUT OF UNEMPLOYMENT FUNDS!!
You will have work during the summers now.
For those teachers who want to SUM it all up with how many hours at home, and this and that, well, you are not the ONLY ones out here doing OVERTIME without Pay!.
good luck.

April 13 2010 at 7:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
flippin

To DAVE
Sorry to hear that your Teacher Wife will have a 20% pay cut.
DO you think teachers are the only ones taking a pay cut?
You think America has a Teacher on our Flag?
We need to pay the trash man more. If we have no trash hauled off ....all those "smart kids" will die from trash diseases.

Now I get what you are saying " you wanted your wife to teach to keep that Guaranteed Salary and Tenure" Perhaps she is one of the few that just loves to teach.
maybe a cut in pay, buy Hey! join the crowd of other Americans..

April 13 2010 at 7:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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