A reader writes from California about the churn and instability caused by the toxic combination of annual budget cuts and an open door for unregulated charters. I met a teacher in Los Angeles recently who told me he had been “pink slipped” six years in a row, called back each time, then pink-slipped again. What does that do for morale? I think that is called the collateral damage of reform. The glimmer of hope at the end of the letter refers to the fact that Governor Brown is trying to restore a portion of the funding that was cut, and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson–who taught science–is a champion for public education.
And one other notable development in California: the teachers in San Diego reached a tentative agreement with the district to defer any wage increases in an effort to save the jobs of 1,500 of their colleagues. It would be impressive if some of the technology billionaires in California offered to pay higher taxes to save the jobs of teachers and other public sector employees.
I am a public school teacher in California and I have watched with horror the past several years as our budgets have been slashed. I have seen good, decent, hard-working teachers laid off every single year and then brought back because, after all, you can’t lay off 50% of a school’s faculty and have 30+ empty classrooms! I am not joking when I say 50%, either. In the current round of layoffs, my school (which has @ 65 teachers – counting counselors, and other certificated staff) saw a layoff list of 25 people. My school district, which serves a huge population of native Spanish-speaking students has lost 60 million from its budget in the past 3 years alone.
When Governor Terminator was in office, it was a sheer disaster! I was pleased and continue to remain pleased at Governor Brown. This tax proposal is almost a last ditch effort. If it fails, it will literally be armageddon in some/most of our schools.
Speaking of charter schools, my former principal left to go open a new charter school (she was the first administrator – not the person actually funding it). The charter school was open for @ 5 months before closing because, in a typical lack of oversight, the charter founder had embezzled millions from the school. Every single teacher who left tenured positions (including my former principal) lost their jobs when the school district took over the failed charter school. 10 years ago, this wouldn’t have been a total disaster as there were plenty of teaching jobs. Today, there are thousands of out of work teachers – including those from this charter school.
California is truly a paradox, but I believe it may be on the right path.