Friday, April 15, 2011

A Letter

I don't normally email congressmen but the state senate published their proposed budget for the upcoming session and I simply couldn't say nothing. Here is a short version of how the budget proposal would affect just MY district (summarized by the district):
  • The Senate budget cuts the district by $3.2 million
  • The Senate budget will force the district to choose to cut either:
    • 6 days out of the school year
    • Eliminate sports (football, baseball, swim/diving, track, etc.); eliminate music, Discovery, transportation, other extra-curricular activities
  • The Senate budget cuts teacher and staff pay by 3% by directing districts to furlough staff using layoffs or unpaid leave of absence days
  • Districts—just like the county and city governments—must make cut to salaries by reducing the amount of time employees are at work (Federal employment laws prohibit employers from demanding employees work for no pay)
    • Counties and cities close libraries, offices, parks and other services to cut pay for staff
    • Closing schools for 6 days equal a 3% pay cut for all school district staff
  • The Senate budget will also change how funding is provided to school districts:
    • We would use a California-model called Average Daily Attendance
    • No funding is provided to districts for students who are absent
    • District very likely will have to hire additional staff specifically to track student daily attendance to comply with new state model
    • Senate will work with state education office to define how average daily attendance is calculated
    • The California model has been proven not to work—California’s dropout rate is 21.5%; Washington’s dropout rate is 5.1%
So it seems, basically, that some teachers would be laid off and those remaining in place would have a fairly serious cut in pay, and we would have to hire more people to keep track of attendance. As an alternative, the House budget proposal would cut $1million from the district.

My email went like this:
Senator Keiser;

I am a high school history teacher and I am begging you not to support the Senate budget proposal introduced earlier this week. This is my 9th year in public education, and my 4th year in Washington. I work at a high needs school with a 48% mobility rate, and 54% of students on free/reduced lunch. School provides a safe haven for many of my kids. Many of my kids get their only solid meal of the day in my school. Many of my kids stay after school because it is dry, warm, and safe, and they would rather be at school than at home. My students trust me, learn from me, and teach me to be a better person. The last thing they need is fewer days in school with fewer teachers that are even more overworked. I spend every school day working to get my kids to understand the basic democratic principles we believe they need in order to be good citizens of this country, followed by going to meetings to fill in the gaps left by overworked parents who can't or won't participate in their child's education. I spend every weekend grading, planning instruction, and modifying curriculum for all my students - even those with 1st grade reading skills who are expected to pass my 10th grade class. I spend every summer reworking curriculum, developing better lesson plans and going to classes to learn to be a better teacher. These activities are interspersed with reading the latest attacks on public education and its "failures" and reading about how my profession, this thing that I pour my heart and soul into on a daily basis year-round, is allegedly full of lazy slackabouts who do nothing but sit around and wait for retirement in between 3 month summer vacations. I am tired of hearing that someone lucky and/or rich enough to attend an Ivy League school can do what I do with minimal effort, despite the shockingly vast amount of evidence to the contrary. I am tired of hearing that our free public educational system, which was founded on the belief that all citizens in a democracy should have the right and responsibility to be educated participants in an electoral system, should be converted into a system founded on a belief that rich people are the smartest people, and should therefore be respected because they are rich. My students can tell you that that belief is called Social Darwinism, and is what led to things like racism and the Holocaust. I am tired of testing companies and their lobbyists convincing my government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on more and more tests that accomplish nothing except unnecessarily stressing out students, angering parents, spreading false rumors about education, and driving an even deeper wedge between schools and the communities we are part of. If you want to save millions of dollars for the state of Washington, get rid of all standardized tests for one year. It would be far more effective than the Senate’s proposed budget, which retains all standardized tests but cuts both teacher positions AND teacher pay. Thank you for your time and consideration of this important issue.

I know it's long, but it could easily have been longer, and it's my first time. I don't know if politicians or their interns read these or if they simply go into a pile marked "support" or "don't support" but it is sent, nonetheless. Here's hoping it makes a difference.

1 comment:

Roxanne said...

Thank you for taking a stand! I hope the senator takes your letter to heart.
R. Hodges
Maryland teacher in training