Monday, June 08, 2009

It is going to be bad

I spoke with a couple of teachers today and next year's financial outlook is just plain bad. 

And it isn't just us.

Willits School District (about 25 minutes north on Hwy 101) is looking at millions of dollars in cuts.  In a school district that has only a few hundred students at their local high school, facing a multi-million dollar deficit is pretty insane.  And where to cut?  Well, I can tell you that Special Education and Transportation do an excellent job at eating up budgets in this neck of the woods (meaning Mendocino County).  You can dump busing, but realize that a huge population of students are being bused in from many miles away, and simply walking a couple of blocks to school doesn't exist in Northern California.  Mendocino County has an incredibly high Special Education population that is ever demanding of resources, and everything that a school doesn't get accomplished with Special Ed leaves the district up for some kind of lawsuit.  Parents don't really care about cuts, they want that IEP followed to the letter, even if it can't really get done economically.  Oh, and there's another example of the glories of a legalized pot society.  Increased numbers of Special Ed students in the pot capital of the nation.  Coincidence?   

In Ukiah the situation is much the same.  The rumor going around is that massive spending cuts are coming to the high school.  What kind of cuts?  Well, as you know I'm a huge proponent of making every institution become efficient.  I'm all for spending wisely and using resources to their maximum.  When I heard the percentage cut from our budget, I shook my head and said, "That can't be done".  Yeah, it's going to get really ugly. 

Get ready for three things:

1)  Labor issues.  The word "furlough" is now creeping into the lexicon of high school teachers everywhere.  However, it is being used in and "either/or" sort of way.  Either take a three/five day furlough, or lose "x" teachers.  I understood the three, might have managed the five, but now I'm even hearing two week furloughs, and I need to seriously consider my own mortgage and standard of living.  With budget cuts coming, I'm going to spend more money on my classroom (I'm spending over $2,000 of my own money this summer on conferences) and my employer taking it away isn't going to make my morale much better.  When hard decisions are put to a vote, I'm going to have to seriously consider my own situation as well.  And I consider that small compared to rumors of other districts asking for permanent 5% wage cuts, plus additional health care costs.  Note to teachers, it is almost impossible to gain back permanent wage cuts.  I highly recommend against it.

2)  Grievances and lawsuits.  I have to be honest, if I had one or two students over my contract limit in my classroom after the mandated date, I could give a shit.  The difference between 25-32 is a significant.  The difference of two students is overblown, yet I know that some colleagues would throw a tantrum if some of the slightest transgressions take place against the contract.  And that's not the half if it.  With all the cuts, we are looking at serious issues impeding the education of our students using beneficial practices.  Some teachers will not shell out hundreds of dollars out of their paycheck to supply classrooms with necessary essentials that should be paid for by the state, and I don't blame really blame them either.  Regardless, some parent will be ready to pounce on some lawsuit that does nothing but exacerbate an already bad situation.  It only takes one.   

3)    Supplies will be low, morale will be low, extra-curriculars will be cut.  Yuck.  Teachers will be that much more pressured to do more with less, in a situation that will be less than ideal, and with the knowledge that the have no support from society.  Now, teachers with more technical savvy might be able to get away with doing more with less (blogs instead of essays, online quizzes), but those that have been doing it a certain way for years are going to have serious problems totally changing their teaching style.  It could get messy. 

 

Bottom line is this, next year is going to be very bad for public education.  If I saw some bright spot down the road, even something as simple as social appreciation for education, or increased parental responsibility, then I'd be optimistic.  I don't see it happening.

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