More and more with less and less

May 24, 2013

lightbulbsThe school year is winding down. It is a time for reflection on academic careers and celebrations of graduate’s accomplishments.

But put that on hold a minute… the reality is that we are ending this year with exhaustion and sadness as fiscal policies dictate school policies and people dedicated to the education profession are asked to do more and more with less and less.

Less and More

School districts are forced into reactionary budgeting to meet the demands of the federal and state government with less say, less resources and more demands.

Beyond the state budget crisis and a district anticipating $11 million in additional cuts (after five straight years of cuts), the morale,  health and well being of faculty and staff are threatened by  the demands to continue operating at high levels with less support.  Here is just a sample:

  • Budget constraints mean no new textbooks.  So we are asked to teach rigorous, modern curriculum with books 10 years old (and in some cases even older).
  • Teachers are mandated to prepare for Common Core pilot testing next year… and California Standards Testing… and CAHSEE… and maintain high end programs like IB and AP.
  • Stipends are being eliminated from coaches, advisers, support personnel, yet the programs are expected to continue to perform at high levels.
  • Teachers are needed but the only hires are to replace those who retired. Class enrollment levels are at 38:1 (and as high as 42:1 in some subjects).

Broken

Defying what I call good education and a good educational climate,  we work to finish this year and start anew in a couple months.

However, conversations with my colleagues and events this last week provide evidence that we are broken both in function and spirit.

  • It is seen in the District administrator who tells the school principal “Here is the list of people you need to fire today. Oh, and by the way, you need to figure out how to reduce our attrition rate.”
  • It is evident by noting that the people laid off are the same ones who provide support to the students identified as at-risk for attrition.
  • It is seen in the husband and wife who dedicate themselves to the district both getting laid off the same day.
  • It is evident from the newly hired second grade teacher whom parents describe as “the best teacher ever” getting her pink slip even though she is needed and loved by students.
  • It is seen in the veteran teacher who REALLY should NOT be teaching anymore; a teacher who does more harm than good in the classroom but is protected by the union and an outside advocacy group that scares the District despite years of documentation illustrating incompetence.
  • It is evident by asking teachers to continue to do more and more with less and less.

Most of my colleagues want to provide incredible educational opportunities to our students. Many are finding that harder to do given the demands.

My school site operates with a strong cultural principle of “We Are Us.”  We care for each other and mourn for each other.   We work hard for our students and fight for their rights.  But we also need to fight for ourselves.

More and more with less and less leads to a fragile environment detrimental to all of us.