3.10.2010

The Triple Screwing of the Educational Budget Cuts

So I heard the bad news from one of my co-workers that his position has been eliminated as a result of the non-stop budget cuts to education in California. His is, of course, not going to be the only position cut in this latest round of cuts. And I have to remind myself that I'm actually not even a real employee in this district since my position was eliminated last June.

I am a contractor within the district doing pretty much the exact same job I did last year but without any security, health insurance or retirement benefits. Which is to say, I'm a helluva lot cheaper than I was last year all told but it also means I've been in full-on job hunt mode all year. And, if and when I do get another job offered to me, I'm going to bounce and leave someone else to sort out the mess. If the district wanted to buy my loyalty then they'd figure out a way to hire me on full time with all the benefits and protections that implies.

Anyway, here's how I see the continuing rounds of budget cuts after budget cuts. There are three main areas where the system screws itself and, by extension, screws the students in the system.

1. Because the cuts are made based on literally nothing more than length of service the newer, more energetic, more engaged and better educated teachers are the first to go. This is the same as putting old people in the lifeboats first and then seeing if there's space for the younger women and children. Nice if you're an old person but kind of stupid for the long term.

2. Older teachers, those nearing retirement are often the most burned out, fed up and spent employees in the district. They are the worst teachers to work with, they hate technology, they are grumpy, they are short with their students, they are gone absolutely as soon as possible at the end of the day.

3. Many of the older teachers stopped giving a damn about teaching years ago and are, quite honestly, just running out the clock so that they can get their maximum pension. This maximum pension thing can be the difference between pulling $1500 a month until you die or pulling $4000 a month until you die. It isn't chump change but the fact the only reason they keep teaching is to get the bigger pension means they are pretty crappy teachers.

All of this is a terrible disservice to the students. They are being taught by cranky old teachers from out of date textbooks and using obsolete technological resources (not completely true but generally pretty accurate across the entire district). And yet there is an oppressive mandate to improve test scores while underfunding the system repeatedly? How that's math work?

California is failing its children by failing the entire educational system and we will be paying the tab on this one for years and years to come.
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