Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Standing Up for California's Schools

About a year ago I blogged about "Pink Friday" - the designation given last year to the March 15 deadline to give teachers layoff notices, or "pink slips," due to California state budget cuts in education.

Well, this year, March 15 falls on a Monday, and the pink slips have already begun appearing. So far, statewide, over 18,000 teachers have been told that their services will not be required for the next school year. That number will increase over the next twelve days. Of course, the number of children in school will not be likewise cut. Instead, class sizes will increase and services will be cut.

In my wife's school, second grade classrooms will increase from 20 to 30 students each, and teachers will have less time to prep lessons and grade work because they'll each have additional yard duty to fill in for other adjunct staff who have also been pink slipped. Oh, and she'll take home less money as health insurance premiums increase and the district considers whether to enact three or five mandatory furlough days.

Yes, this is obviously personal to me, but if you have children in California's schools, or you run a business that hires graduates of California's schools, or you see the benefits of an educated population on such things as civil participation and crime prevention, it should be personal to you too.

A few things to consider:
• Lawmakers have cut more than $17 billion from public schools and colleges in the last two years and more cuts have been proposed.
• Class sizes have increased to unmanageable numbers, denying students the one-on-one attention they need. More than 70 percent of elementary schools reported class size increases.
• Art, music, PE, career technical education and summer school programs have been eliminated.
• California spends $2,400 less per student than the national average and ranks 46th in per-pupil funding.

This is not just about K-12 education either, but our state colleges and universities:
• Student enrollment fees increased more than 30% this year. Rising student fees and reduced course offerings mean fewer students can go to college.

So, what can you do? Tomorrow, Thursday, March 4, there will be Stand Up For Schools rallies throughout the state. From silent protests in the morning before classes begin, to informational meetings in the evening where you can learn how to fight Sacramento and demand a quality education for your community, there's something you can do.

Search the events page at Stand Up For Schools to see what's happening in your community. If you don't see anything listed on the website, contact your child's teacher, school, or district office.

Another nice thing about these events is the teamwork behind them. These are not just organized by the teacher's unions, or just a few administrators working together, but a collaboration between the unions, the districts, the administrators, and other education staff and groups.

Many times we say things like, "Our state's future depends on this." Well, it may be trite to say it again, but this time, I really mean it.

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