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The Recession and School Layoffs

Where are the screams?

I fail to understand why politicians of both parties, the media, policy makers and the business community are not screaming about the following information which appeared on May, 6th in the Washington Post written by Harold Meyerson.  The above named people are supposedly most concerned about the inability of schools to produce a globally competitive workforce yet how do schools do this if teachers, are fired and schools are operating on a 4 day week.  I am not saying that money is the solution to all of education’s problems, but the dire predictions just make the journey more perilous.
One of the precious few points of consensus in our polarized land is that we need to do a better job educating our kids.  The worst recession since the 1930s is clobbering the nation’s schools.

In Indiana and Arizona, the legislatures have eliminated free all-day kindergarten. In Kansas, some school districts have gone to four-day weeks. In New Jersey, 60 percent of school districts are reducing their course offerings. In Albuquerque, the number of school district employees is down 10 percent. In the D.C. suburbs, Maryland’s Prince George’s and Virginia’s Prince William counties have increased their class sizes.

A recent American Association of School Administrators survey of 453 school districts in 45 states shows how bad things are. One-third of the districts are looking at eliminating summer school this year. Fourteen percent are considering going to four-day weeks (last year, just 2 percent did). Fully 62 percent anticipate increasing class size next year, up from 26 percent in the current school year. The teacher-to-pupil ratio, the AASA says, will rise from 15 to 1 to 17 to 1.

Nationwide, estimates of teacher layoffs range from 100,000 to 300,000, with some experts pegging the most likely number nearer the high end. Layoffs are likely to be hardest on the youngest teachers — “probably the most tech-savvy teachers we have,” says Rep. George Miller, the California Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee. Nor do many talented, young people elect to enter the profession, he adds, when the profession is shrinking.

“You can’t just push the pause button on kids’ education and say, ‘Wait a while,’ ” says Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Yet there is little willingness in Congress to craft another broad stimulus package even though education provisions plainly enhance the nation’s ability to create a globally competitive workforce.

There is also little support for finding offsetting cuts or tax hikes to pay for such a bill. Accordingly, Miller and Harkin have introduced legislation in their respective houses narrowly targeted to saving the schools. Each has authored a provision to allot $23 billion to education for the coming fiscal year, with the hope of including it in the next supplemental appropriation bill that contains emergency appropriations that don’t have to be offset by cuts or tax hikes. (Miller’s provision also includes an additional $2 billion to help local governments avoid laying off police officers and firefighters.)  Their bills protect America’s future — and that future is now.

Take a few minutes and write to your state and federal representatives.  Write to your business community, chamber of commerce and have your parents write as well.

Remember, it is not our children who are at-risk, it is our future that is at-risk.

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