Saturday, March 8, 2008

to the governator

Our governor has decided that, in response to our state’s $6 billion deficit, he wants to cut the budget in several areas, including education. Now, obviously I’m biased in this area, being a teacher, but this is an outrage and shows little care in the raising of a new generation. Most teachers (and parents) would agree that education is already under-funded. (The statistics also agree, putting California number at 46 in per-student spending. There are only four states below us, with New York spending more than 75% more than California on education.) With No Child Left Behind making it law to provide quality programs to any student who is below grade level, schools are spending that valuable money to hire more teachers, student aides, and materials which will assist teachers in better educating their students. This, in itself, causes problems, because there is often no money left for the purchasing of school supplies, computer programs, technology and teaching tools, which are necessary in running a classroom in this day and age. So, in turn, the educator has to supply these things him or herself.

I work in a school that is in a low socio-economic community. With this kind of environment, comes a special type of student. This is the kind of student who is often the child of a single-parent household, where the parent works several jobs, is undereducated, and is not around most of the time, leaving the student responsible for much more than an elementary child should be. Many of these kids are abused, many of them are already in gangs, and many of them live with other relatives, because CPS has removed them from their homes. Therefore, it is easy to see that these kids have a lot of struggles that the average middle-class children do not need to deal with. Education for these kids is not the main focus; the main focus is safety. When these children are dealing with all they have on their plates, it is difficult to put focus on what they are learning in the classroom.

Many of these schools, most of them protected and funded as Title 1, have ample programs to further assist these students, in addition to what they have in the classroom. Programs like this include interventions in certain subjects, before and after school programs, and even counseling programs. These programs are necessary in the growing of students in Title 1 schools, and are known to increase grades and test scores.

I can tell you that in my school, we have a wonderful staff who is dedicated to helping students by running these programs. I can also tell you, though, that there is not enough time in the day or money in the budget to give the necessary amount of extra instruction to our kids. I could work a 24 hour day every day, and still feel like something more could have been done.

If the budget is cut, this will take away not only smaller class sizes and teachers, but it will also cut the programs and aides designed to help our students succeed. If we feel we are barely reaching the surface with what we have, what will happen when what we have is taken from us? We will NOT be able to sufficiently support our children and help them to become lifelong learners. With larger class sizes, teachers will not be able to have small group or one-on-one time with struggling students. And students will no longer have a place to go when they do not understand a concept.

I fully believe that further cutting of the budge will lead to more children dropping out of school, because they are so far behind and do not understand any of the concepts they are supposed to be learning. Rather than becoming lifelong learners, they will grow frustrated and disoriented, and finally give up on the education system as a whole.

Another part of the legislation the government is trying to propose is called the “merit pay” system, under which educators only receive raises based on student achievement and test scores. How does this sound to the teacher who has CHOSEN to work in a low socio-economic setting, where the students often have NO background knowledge, have NO access to books and other learning tools, and have family lives that keep them moving from caregiver to caregiver or at least from apartment to apartment every few months? This is the setting I have chosen to teach in, because it is where I believe I can make the most impact, not only being a teacher, but being a positive role model in lives that have none. Many of my kids have such turmoil in their home lives that I’m surprised they are able to focus on anything we are learning in the classroom. These kids, though I do my best to ensure they receive the best education possible, will never score as high as the average middle-class student will on the tests. They will never achieve the same grades, because they come from completely different backgrounds. So based on this, if I choose to remain in the area I have chosen, I will never receive a pay raise, even though I’m working harder than the average teacher to ensure my students a quality education. I put in more hours than most teachers, acting as a private tutor, a listening ear, an advisor of sorts. I give up my lunch hours to assist my students in understanding the principles that flew over their heads during class. I give up my time before and after school to allow my students a quiet place to work (or to talk), because they don’t have that at home. I believe that teachers in schools like this should be compensated even MORE, not less for this hard work and determination, though the governments seems to think we should be punished for this. If this legislation goes into play, it will be harder than ever to convince teachers to take positions in low socio-economic schools; therefore, certain teachers will be “stuck” there, for lack of a better term, unwillingly, and will not put in the time and effort needed to reach this special group of students.

With all that said, please support your California teacher, by signing a petition against the upcoming legislation. Click here or here to save our students, and stand up to the government!