My daughter has all of Thanksgiving week off this year. She’s delighted that we got to start our holiday a few days early, but the extra school vacation days are not really a gift. They’re the result of the continuing barrage of budget cuts that we’ve had to endure since she started kindergarten.
That’s right: Year, after year, after year — for more than a DECADE — we’ve had to adjust for more and more and more cuts to the public school budget.
It has manifested in both visible losses, like teachers and teachers’ aides, and less visible ones, like shortened school years. But the cumulative effect has been devastating. Larger class sizes, fewer electives, and a huge reduction to essential services (i.e., school nurses, janitorial staff and security).
My daughter shares a counselor with 800 other students at her high school. She comes home from school busting to use the bathroom because she tells me only one is kept unlocked. If she has the misfortune to miss a day of school because of illness, it takes the attendance office several weeks to log her excuse because last year, most of the staff was laid off. Parents are asked to contribute everything from books to pens to bathroom tissue, because the District no longer has the money for sufficient supplies.
But the November elections brought beleaguered California parents some good news: We voted in a temporary tax increase which is going to stop the cuts and even bring some services BACK to the schools. This week’s extra vacation days are going to be added BACK to the end of the school year and there is hope that some laid-off personnel will be rehired.
But you know what they say: as one door closes, another opens. Or in the case of public education, it’s the other way around. That’s because with the election behind us, the President and Congress are grappling with the so-called “fiscal cliff” — and budget hawks who would rather cut vital services than raise taxes on the nation’s wealthiest 1%.
The threat of across-the-board Federal cuts threatens Title I funding for schools across the nation, to the tune of $6 billion.
This would mean vastly reduced funding for schools serving low-income students, English learners, special education and programs like Head Start. It would mean that just as California school administrators are thinking ahead to the vital business of educating our kids, they have to go back to the drawing board and make more cuts. And since for many of these programs, this would result in a Federal mandate with insufficient funding, school districts like LAUSD would have to make up the difference somehow… like maybe NOT give us back those instruction days, or rehire those desperately needed teachers and counselors.
Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing NEA Vice President Lily Eskelson for a special MOMocrats MOMochat podcast on Kids, Not Cuts. And I signed the organization’s pledge to “speak up for America’s kids by urging Congress to make the right choices to support public education and working families.”
Fiscal conservatives are always pointing out that the budget deficit is a terrible legacy to leave our children. I agree. The deficit needs to be tackled — but not at the expense of those same children. We need to increase our investment in their education for their future and the future of our nation. Please sign the pledge and let your representative know you believe in Kids, Not Cuts.
DISCLOSURE: My company, Engender Media Group, is working with the NEA on the #KidsNotCuts social media campaign.