There has been 4 straight years of budget cuts (called austerity on the world stage) at my school in Brooklyn, New York. Larger classes has been just one of the major effects of these cuts to our funding. Our seniors, who came to our school because of the promise of four years of math and science, as well as a diverse selection of electives, are now mostly only taking the minimum amount of courses, which does not include electives, math, or science. The budget cuts meant a tremendous cut in our after-school programs. Our students do not want to go home and sit in front of a computer by themselves, yet schools are increasingly telling our children to leave at 3:00 instead of offering robust after-school activities that will foster creativity while keeping our children “off the streets”.
Many people like hearing that “government” is being trimmed down and our city agencies are spending less, but do they really understand what the term “budget cuts” entails. It means a decrease in the amount of funding for; plays, musicals, dancing and drama clubs, yearbook, and newspaper. These activities help our students gain the necessary skills to compete in the globalized business world, skills such as innovation, collaboration, and the ability to produce results. The loss of courses has resulted in our children leaving school with less Math and Science just when they need it most. Electives such as Psychology, Criminal and Constitutional Law, Forensic Science, Organic Chemistry, Public Speaking and Debate, among others help nurture critical thinking skills of analysis and evaluation while exposing our children to subjects outside of the core that they may want to further pursue in college.
I must inevitably get political here, I tend to subscribe to Paul Krugman’s theory on how to solve the current economic problem. We should have spent more money not less. America and it’s localities should have reinvested more funding for schools to stay open after 3:00 and offer more courses for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) clubs, more money could be used to better equip our schools with the latest technologies, we should have brought more teachers in with different specialties and added additional courses, and of course we should have reduced class sizes so that each child receives the individualized attention that he/she needs and deserves. Increased investment in our schools would not have immediate results for our children (although it would have kept thousands if not millions of educators at work and off the unemployment lines), but in years to come the country would see results that could never be measured by any standardized test. Our children would have learned invaluable skills from creating more science projects, exciting plays or musicals on stage, how to play instruments, and the ability to develop publications. These are skills that would help our country continue to lead the world in innovation. Extra money for our schools would have meant that our children entered college with a diverse academic background because of all the different courses they took. Instead we are now sending our children into the world with a limited academic background and little hands-on experience that comes from extra-curricular activities. All in the name of budget cuts.
People will tell me the local and national governments simply didn’t have the money so we had to have austerity, but somehow they found the funds to pay private text-book and consulting companies to develop countless tests and standards that have no real world meaning for our students.
Teacher- Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences
Member of- Movement of Rank & File Educators- Social Justice Caucus of UFT