(Warning - this is a little long, but I had to get it off my chest.)
Two weeks ago I sat in the audience at a Board of Education meeting. This was part of my view. The window is above the dais and the combination of the flagpoles and the electrical lines I saw through the window formed a pretty neat pattern but also reminded me of bars on a window much like you would see in a jail.
How apropo that a lot of us were feeling locked up. We were locked in a place where no one was making the very important decisions that needed to be made.
In April our Governor decided to cut state funding and thus produced some severe cuts to our school budget. The budget, even though it was trimmed to the bones, was defeated by the public. A defeated budget then goes to the Town Council who decides how much more money has to be cut and makes suggestions to the Board of Education of ways to do it. We had heard that our Town Council would be compassionate in not asking for much more money to be cut knowing that the Governor had basically screwed us already.
Well whoever started that rumor was so wrong. The Town Council decided to ask for another $2M to be cut and offered suggestions. They also said that they would reconsider the amount if their "math" could be proven wrong.
Our Business Administrator rolled out the facts and figures and it was hoped that the council would re-evaluate and lessen the amount. Hope proved futile.
They did lower it, but were still asking for $1.5M - more than any other school district in the state!
The Board doesn't have to take the suggestions that the Council makes, but they do need to come up with that dollar figure and they've been working on coming up with these cuts since April. Much too long!
Decisions needed to be made and unfortunately they weren't being made in a timely manner. Oh yes, the Board was working on the budget, but it wasn't going anywhere. We were pretty much kept in the dark until earlier this week. It was then that the agenda for the meeting of the 24th was released.
In the school that I work in our Library/Media Assistant and several Student Aides were let go. And although none of the teachers who work in my school lost their jobs, several of them were reassigned to other schools. We will be sharing positions of the specials teachers next year with our sister school and going to a 6-Day schedule. Our Board of Education cut 20% of the staff - 60 teaching positions.
Up until last night, I was genuinely concerned that my job as a school clerk was on the line. As it turns out, I will have it - at least for another year. I say this because the governor is promising more cuts and more budget caps for the next year. If that is the case, more positions will definitely be lost.
I feel that this is going to have a hugely negative impact on the education of our children in the State of New Jersey. Increasing class size and eliminating programs, and in some instances extra-curricular activities, cannot amount to a quality education. We are taking a step backward. People are blaming it on the economy. People are blaming it on teachers. People are saying that making these cuts will fix everything. Others are saying that this is just the tip of the ice berg.
Although I work for the school system and I am not a teacher, I did work as a substitute teacher for 15+ years before I took my office job and I can tell you that anyone who thinks that teachers don't work as long or as hard as people in the corporate world have to be amongst the most narrow-minded and uninformed.
What I'd really like to know - in this world of political correctness - is how it became acceptable to publicly attack someone's profession with such hostility? That has been the norm lately where the teaching profession is involved. "They make too much." "They get too many benefits." "They have summers off - what are they complaining about!" If these people think that it's so easy then why didn't they become teachers? I think this is directly related to the lack of respect by the students. They hear what is being said negatively and unfortunately it is making an impression.
I could go on, but I've stressed out about this enough for one week. If you've read to the end, thank you for listening.