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Monday July 13th 2020

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School Layoff Announcements Keep Rolling In: VA, NYC, NJ, IN

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Let me start by saying I dislike being the bearer of bad news, but I also don’t subscribe to the ostrich theory of burying one’s head in the sand when one doesn’t like what’s going on. Like my fellow human beings, I like to be right. But being right about this snowball growing ever larger as it builds up steam is about as unpleasant as “being right” can ever be. At this point, about all I can do is encourage every parent to seriously consider, “What are we going to do about our children’s education if the public school system gets worse, or crumbles altogether?”

We are currently being told by those in the know to become self-sufficient in every aspect of our lives to prepare for an uncertain future. Please seriously consider adding thought about homeschooling to your list of self-sufficiency practices. It’s easier than you think, it doesn’t have to be expensive (assuming libraries remain open), and it will improve your family life even as your children receive an education. (And there are many more benefits, too!)

pinkslip

Please seriously consider adding thought about homeschooling to your list of self-sufficiency practices.

VIRGINIA

“The direst layoff forecast comes from the Virginia Education Association, which represents teachers and other education employees,” writes Tyler Whitley of the Media General News Service. “Robley Jones, lobbyist for the association, said 15,000 would lose their jobs under the Senate version of the budget, and 22,000 in the House version, which would cut public education more severely.”

The Virginia House Appropriations Committee vice chairman M. Kirkland Cox, says the union is exaggerating. (A union lobbyist exaggerating? I’ve never heard of such a thing!)

Whatever the actual number is, “Most of the proposed funding cuts fall on public education and health care, because previous rounds of budget reductions did not harm them as much as other parts of state government, such as colleges and public safety,” Jones writes.

NEW YORK CITY

Statistics on the potential scope of teaching firings in the Big Apple come to us courtesy of the (Harvard) Crimson Staff in an opinion piece titled “Lay Off Layoffs: Public School Systems Must Not Lay Off Teachers.”

“Joel I. Klein, chancellor of New York City’s school system—which could potentially layoff as many as 8,500 people this year because of a loss in state aid—has criticized the use of seniority as the sole metric by which teachers are laid off. The argument put forth by Klein and others is that the merit-blind seniority clause does not ensure that the teachers who remain in school systems are necessarily the most effective,” the Staff begins.

But the Staff feels considering “how” teachers are chosen for layoff is not as important as advocating “a different approach to education policy that is based on keeping as many teachers as possible in the classroom. Public school teachers are essential to improving American education, meeting the needs of all students, and providing a crucial long-term investment in the continuing competitiveness, creativity, and competence of the country as a whole.”

They call teacher layoffs a short-term remedy with future consequences, such as:

Larger classes will decrease the amount of quality and care afforded to students at present, an option that our already-struggling public school system cannot afford to see come to fruition. A decrease in the quality of education now will amplify over the years to result in an unwelcome decrease in the number of citizens capable of contributing and engaging with an increasingly competitive global economy. Moreover, any lessening in the current pool of teaching jobs will further discourage bright, enthusiastic students from pursuing jobs in education. No amount of penny-pinching is worth these costs. Understanding that the loss of state aid and tightening budgets are serious matters that have been approached with care and deliberation, we still argue that laying off teachers should not be a recourse for states strapped for cash. In this sense, the debate between seniority and merit need not take place, for there should be no across-the-board layoffs of teachers.

Bless their hearts. (Can you tell I’ve been living in the south for a while?) I wonder where these youngsters think the money is going to come from? Looks like a great lesson in economics is about to be had by all.

NEW JERSEY

From New York Times “City Room” round-up by Daniel E. Slotnik on what’s happening in New Jersey:

Gov. Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey unveiled a $29.3 billion budget on Tuesday that relies almost exclusively on spending cuts to reverse the sagging fortunes of a state he sees as battered by the recession and choking on its tax burden. To close a deficit that he asserted was approaching $11 billion, Governor Christie called for the layoffs of 1,300 state workers, closings of state psychiatric institutions, an $820 million cut in aid to public schools, and nearly half a billion dollars less in aid to towns and cities.

INDIANA

While Indiana state officials are saying they can handle their anticipated $300 million budget shortfall without teacher layoffs, as in other states the schools are getting their pink slips in the mail, just in case.

Once again we’re getting numbers from a teachers union rep, this time the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) spokesperson Mark Shoup. In an Associated Press article by Charles Wilson called “Union Says Education Cuts Are Costing Teacher Jobs,” Shoup declares “the union believes up to 5,000 teachers could lose their jobs by next fall — about 8 percent of public school teachers statewide. And that doesn’t include another 1,500 teachers the union estimates may retire without being replaced.”

“The cuts appear to be fairly substantial and there appear to be cuts where we haven’t seen cuts before,” Shoup added in a direct quote.

State Superintendent Tony Bennett, however, believes “Any district can find 2 or 3 percent savings without reducing teaching staff. If everyone, including teachers themselves, will pitch in, we’ll get through this recession just fine.”

Not every one agrees with the good Superintendent, however. While the state Board of Education gave all schools a list of ways to save money without firing teachers that included “wage freezes, charging fees for sports and other extracurricular activities and outsourcing cafeteria, janitorial and transportation services.”

And then there are districts that were in financial difficulty before cuts to the state budget were announced.

“’We’re all over that checklist,’ said Walter Bourke, superintendent of Franklin Township schools in Indianapolis, which is eliminating 54 of about 500 teaching positions.” This district has already cut spending three times in the last four years.

“The fast-growing district has opened three new schools and a high school addition in three years, but Bourke said the school board already has agreed to close two elementary schools due to money problems. Officials have also cut 77 non-teaching jobs, reduced benefits for teachers and administrators, closed an alternative school and are looking at charging fees for athletics.

J.T. Coopman, superintendent of the Bloomington-based Monroe County school district, which has about 650 teaching jobs and is laying off 89 teachers and administrators, said he expects schools’ economic problems to worsen as state tax revenues continue to decline.

“We’re not anticipating this is the end of … reductions,” Coopman said. “We’re anticipating this is the beginning.”

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