Funding for education has been decimated by the current state leadership. At a time when lawmakers mouth the importance of improved test scores and quality education, they are firing young teachers and increasing class sizes!
Locally, school district leaders are choosing to “balance the budget” on the backs of students, teachers, and support staff by laying off school site employees. In our county, 10 percent of the Del Norte Unified School District teaching positions have been eliminated in the past three years. At the same time, administrative costs have increased with only a few reductions in days and no reductions in administrative positions.
The district will contend that many of the decreases in teaching positions are due to reduced enrollment, yet teacher cuts go far beyond the loss of revenue caused by changes in enrollment. Furthermore, if declining enrollment has caused teacher layoffs, why haven’t we seen a reduction in administration? Shouldn’t enrollment numbers be used to determine administrative staffing also?
We can think statewide, but we must act locally. It is time for our local educational leaders to demonstrate true leadership by cutting administrative costs and eliminating medical benefits for school board members.
Teacher layoffs mean larger classes. This should be evident in the increases already seen. Imagine teaching a class of 35 or more sixth-graders! What really happens? It’s simple. More time is spent disciplining students, administering tests, planning and grading; less time is devoted to individual instruction, enrichment activities, or important interpersonal interactions.
The future will be measured by today. It is time our School Board members, school superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent, director of human resources, director of special education, principals and assistant principals make sacrifices equivalent to those already made by front-line workers.
It is time to use our $3.1 million dollar reserve (approximately 7.5 percent above the state’s requirement) to stop laying off teachers! Along with parents and family, it is time to demonstrate that teachers are the most important people in students’ lives.
Mike Mealue of Crescent City is president of the Del Norte Teachers Association.