I came across this poster today which reminded me once again why I began posting to this blog. It is difficult in the midst of this all-consuming financial crisis to remind ourselves that there continue to be larger issues yet to be resolved in the way we educate our children and the ways in which we assess the effectiveness of our teaching. The testing season is upon us once again and it comes at a time when the vast majority of school districts and classrooms are covered by a cloud of uncertainty
I know from personal experience how debilitating the threat of budget slashing and the prospect of layoffs can be .. how difficult it is for individual teachers to maintain their focus when the air is thick with threats and the public discourse focuses on the relative security of public employees. It is particularly tragic to see the layoffs occurring when there is a virtual tsunami of federal cash directed toward schools. Just last week President Obama reminded a “pink-slipped” teacher in a Town Hall Meeting in California that relief was on the way and underscored that the intention was in the short term to prevent layoffs. He mentioned it again last night in his second live press conference. His Secretary of Education reinforces the message everywhere he goes as well.
How does the message get translated here on the street ? The Feds say spend the money fast, but on the local level too often there is a hesitance to spend the money on retaining teachers, but on “stuff”. The reality is that we can survive without the stuff, but not without the teachers. I understand the local rationale, I’ve listened to it for 40 years. These are one-time dollars they will say. Yes they may well be, but this is a once in a lifetime circumstance and if public education is weakened, our ability to recover is also weakened. I guess it is time to look the gift horse in the mouth and say thanks for the money, but do you realize that your earnestness alone is not enough to offset the complexities of school funding formulas and deeply entrenched attitudes.
New guidance from the federal Department of Education with an interpretation that may broaden the ways in which federal stimulus money can be used. Let’s hope that they continue to stress to state and local decisionmakers that retaining teachers is vitally important for both education and the economy.