Educator stories detail harsh realities of education cuts


By Amanda Litvinov

Students packed into classes that have nearly doubled in size. No after-school tutoring, field trips and music and limited library access. Fewer aids and other resources to help special education students and English language learners.

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These are the realities that result when lawmakers cut spending on public education, and these are the things that keep educators and parents up at night. The fact that some lawmakers would dangle the threat of further deep cuts to education to get their way in the ongoing Washington budget battle isn’t sitting well with those who see the tough consequences of funding cuts every day in schools across America.

Your voice is important! After you’ve read these examples submitted by your colleagues around the country, you can share your story here. Then stay tuned for our National Call-In Day on Education Funding Cuts on Feb. 7.  We’ll help you tell your story directly to your Senators and Representatives via the NEA Educator Connector phone line.

No one is in a better position than educators to explain the devastating impact education cuts can have on students and middle-class families. Here’s proof:

“I work for the poorest high school in Washington County. Further budget cut to us would mean fewer services to the most at-risk and highly mobile student body in the county. These kids have the highest mental health needs, as do their parents. Cuts would mean they wouldn’t receive the already limited assistance.  Congress needs to ensure these kids don’t suffer further because bureaucrats can’t come together and make the budget work for kids.  They are our future.”

Lauren, educator from Oregon

“We have some class sizes over 40, no libraries, no computer labs, one nurse for 5,000 students and no music or art in our district. This is not what is needed to educate our students.  Restoring funding is crucial and must happen, now!”

Marian, educator from California

“My class sizes are significantly larger than they were a few years ago. I cannot adequately serve all the kids who need extra help. Several are falling through the cracks. In addition to teaching, I coach high school football, middle school track,  keep the scoreboard for winter sports, work summer football camps, paint and power wash houses, and will begin umpiring baseball games this year. I routinely work 60-70 hours per week, which puts a tremendous strain on me and my family. My wife and I have delayed having another child because we struggle to pay for our one kid now. I did not enter education to become rich but a comfortable living wage is expected with two teachers working. I would like to see one of these politicians live on our salary (without accepting gifts from special interest groups) for one month. I would bet that would increase school funding immediately.”

Matthew, educator from Virginia

“Teachers and students in Oklahoma cannot afford more budget cuts. I teach, and I am a single mother of a child with disabilities. It is a sad day when I cannot even pay our basic bills from my teaching salary, have had my vehicle repossessed, and possibly will have to file bankruptcy. Teachers in Oklahoma haven’t had a cost of living raise in years. Not only that, but our classes are filled with wall to wall desks because of reduction in force in spite of our district growing. Stop cutting from education, unless an illiterate nation is your goal. Your education cuts hurt me, my son, my students, and ultimately our nation.”

Amanda, educator from Oklahoma

“When will enough be enough?  My district has already lost more than 350 teachers and support staff in the last three years due to education funding cuts and Governor Corbett’s disdain for public education. In turn, parents have become dissatisfied with the lack of services currently being offered compared to what their children previously received and the great exodus has begun: We have lost more than 1,000 students since we no longer offer after school tutoring, computer classes, math support services for grades K-2, field trips, assemblies, and the list goes on.  That means more staff cuts and more building closures.  Congress needs to wake up and stop the madness before the greatest country on earth becomes the most illiterate and unable to sustain the workforce needed for engineering, science and math related jobs.  Please act before the damage is too great to reverse!”

Michelle, educator from Pennsylvania

Reader Comments

  1. Interesting how our union wants our stories yet not a single union takes the lead in uniting all the teachers and police officers and nurses etc around the country to fight Washington. Our dues go up yet our unions treat us like each district is different and each gontract is different. Why shouldn’t we ALL fight this as ONE. Teachers need to stop volunteering and working outside of contract hours and act more like lawyers if they want to get respect and more pay! Unions need to unite and stop wasting our time with publishing stories in magazines and websites that only teachers read and stop giving away our money to politicians and consultants who do nothing for us. When will unions join the people to make a difference?!

  2. Many politicians will declare our education system the greatest in the world once teachers work for minimum wage,give up their retirement plans along with all medical benefits.
    I recently heard one “lawyer” state teachers just want paychecks without doing any work

    1. This is so very sad. We are probably the hardest working people. Many are at school two hours before classes begin and some of us are there two hours or more after classes are over for many things, like PTO meetings, sporting events, tutoring children, grading papers, working with children to give them extra help. I also know of teachers that are at their school on the weekends working. We grade papers during our evening hours as well as attend parent conferences, open houses, dances, football games, basketball games, soccer, swimming. Do I need to go on. The lawyer that made that statement has never had to do the work we have had to do, I think maybe he should walk one day in our shoes, and then his attitude would change. Our work use to be a pleasure. I love working with children and seeing that look on their faces when they realize what they just learned. If we could just teach.

  3. AMEN!! And let us NOT forget the newest teacher evaluation system these “uneducated” congressional leaders have shoved through the back door!! It’s appalling what goes on in our nation’s capital and the devastation that has ALREADY been done to public education.
    We need to get back to the basics of Reading,Writing, and Arithmetic….. Remember, the good old days of basic old fashion teaching!! From a teaching perspective, the only SPECIAL INTEREST is the needs of the individual children we nurture every single day. And don’t even get me started on parent accountability!! Somehow it has turned into parent entitlement!! Until we hold parents accountable for the welfare of their OWN children, education will continue to spiral out of control!! How scary and sad is that..

  4. I will not repeat what all of the others have said here, our educational system has failed, first in educating our children, now by not even providing basic services. These dedicated teachers have continued to teach, even though some physical conditions are so poor as needing to be condemned. You would expect that the way the teachers are treated, the expectations, the lack of income, poor health coverage, poor physical conditions, and so many more negative situations/conditions/etc. are enough to give any teacher just reason to quit. If you do not receive adequate compensation to even be able to find a safe, suitable place to live, feed yourself and your child, and just provide the basic necessities for yourself and your family, then how can one be expected to function even if the school circumstances were good. Our children deserve better, our teachers deserve better to be able to serve these children, our future. Our government leaders receive, not earn, high salaries and many perks, yet do so little, while continuing to reward themselves while taking from those who need and deserve. I loved my 35 year teaching career, but am glad that I am no longer part of this broken system which will lead to a broken future for our country. As much as we need quality and dedicated educators, for the reasons I and so many others have sited, I discourage young people from entering the profession. Not a very noble action, certainly does not advance the future of our children and society, but educators should and need to be compensated, respected, appreciated, and so much more. Instead, many live in poverty, in worse situations than our children in government sponsored housing, cannot afford to provide the basic care needed for themselves and their families. Daily, we read how our educators and schools are failing our children. Someone needs to look for the reasons why this is happening, it is not a lack of quality educators, and our children have not become less intelligent, the opportunities have been taken away. Our government officials, high level corporate executives, and so many more do not send their children to public schools, consider our schools inadequate, but do not care enough to change and make financially wise decisions to support our educations system.

    1. Thank you so much for your continued support following… I’m so sure…your much deserved retirement. Those of us still in the trenches appreciate your concern for our country’s children and their teachers. My son was considering becoming a teacher, and I talked him out of it. It’s such a shame. He is so bright and would have been a wonderful teacher. The future is so bleak for education. Cuts, cuts, cuts. My husband and I are both teachers…and facing a pay cut…like so many other educators. Sadly, I have strongly discouraged many talented young people from going into the field. It’s a difficult job. It’s a rewarding job. However, it is no longer a field that will attract the gifted. I fear for the future of our country. Our forefathers would be so disappointed. Education was so very important to them.

  5. Here in Florida, the voters back 11 years ago put a cap on class size in our state constitution. K-5, 18 kids, 6-8, 22 kids and 9-12, 25kids…you can just see the administration and school board wanting to push the 37 to 42 kids in the rooms, but they can’t. But even with low class sizes, scores have not improved…Kids are just not motivated and parents blame you know who, teachers.

    1. Yes, public education needs help. And yes, educators are loudly and repeatedly blamed. We seem to be the nation’s whipping boy and scapegoat. However, I agree that our political leaders are largely to blame. Here in Idaho, I am under the impression that our state government, whose department of education is headed by a teacher-hater, wants all of our children to be taught by home-school moms or computers. They seem to have given up on the concept of public schools and are trying to push us into oblivion.

      Parents are not all blameless, either. While there are some who volunteer, support education, push their children to do better, and help in countless other ways, there are those who don’t deserve the title “parent”. I’ve seen students who miss school because they had to nurse hung-over or drugged-up parents back to health. I’ve seen parents who show up to conferences (a small miracle in itself for these folks) unclean, inebriated, and barely coherent, much to their children’s embarrassment. I’ve seen bruises and broken bones. I’ve heard of children whose immigrant parents communicate so little with their own children that they don’t even speak the same language, and require an interpreter when the social worker comes by. We teachers (and even the government) cannot be held responsible for all the consequences that result from such circumstances at home.

      Getting back to home-schooling and online classes, I am not against alternative teaching methods. That said, they definitely don’t work for everyone. In my experience, the online courses especially do not appeal to most of the kids I know taking them. Also, not every mother can afford to stay home and teach. What’s more, not everybody has the knowledge or skills to teach, and having worked hard to become a highly-qualified high school teacher, I don’t see how you can expect the average person to be able to teach all those subjects as well as a whole team of professionals trained in different areas.

      Let’s not give up on public schools. They are not perfect, but they are the foundation of our children’s future. Public schools have always been, and remain, the most important component in giving everyone access to the American dream.

  6. We have one nurse for three schools. We have one assistant principals for three schools. The other day we ran out of toilet paper, so the teachers brought some from home to outfit the bathrooms. I haven’t gotten a step or cost of living raise in about 7 years. I cannot afford to live in a decent home or raise my children appropriately. Our insurance has a 1000 deductible…seems it goes up every year. Also, we are only focused on test scores, not how beautiful each child happens to be. There is a number on the head of each child. For the record, I am an elementary school teacher with 26 years of experience.

    1. The sad reality of all of this testing is that it narrows the creativty of students. We are forced & mandated by state & federal laws to improve test scores or else. Teaching to tests as many think does not necessily equate to critical thinking skills nor does it guarantee that a child will become an employable adult. There is so much more that goes into becoming a successful adult who will then become an employable adult with the social skills & responsiblity needed to stay employed. We have no time to address the social/emotional ills of so many kids today because of all of the test prep & overcrowding of schools. As a school counselor & educator of 29 years, I can tell you that mental illness among students is escalating & I work in a K-6 school. many students are merely trying to survive the circumstances they live in, let alone worry about passing a test. Also, I can tell you that school districts spend an enormous amount of money on paying for these tests. Don’t fool yourselves, testing companies have their hands in the pockets of the politicians. This whole testing mess began in the Bush era & low & behold one of the Bush brothers either owned or had high stakes in a testing company. It is easy for politicians who do little to deserve the salaries they are given to come up with easy solutions such as test scores to prove a child is learning & therefore will be employable. I for one was not tested to death as a child & I have 2 degrees & am a successfully employed adult. HMMM, how did that happen without all that testing???? It’s time to stop blaming educators & punishing them by reducing funding. Our children do not value education as we did, and not all children are destined or created to be 4 year college material, yet we treat & expect every child to learn the same way & have the same outcome regardless of their abilities or giftings.

  7. Sad America doesn’t take care of their most important asset their children. Teachers are continually cut class sizes grow bigger the teacher has to put money into her class room to have enough supplies and has more threats of death law suites and disrespect from the public and law makers. Wake up folks stop this now.

  8. I have seen 40-60 children crammed in a room without even enough chairs for them to sit down in; some had to sit on the carpet with a clipboard. We have run out of paper, and teachers routinely went to Kinko’s on their own dime to make materials for children to use. Special education and ESOL students got virtually no services at all. We had one ESOL teacher for numerous schools, and we hardly ever saw her. Finally, they eliminated the position. The school district refused to screen and place children who desperately needed it into special education, because they would not provide services for them. Six hundred and fifty students crammed into a cafeteria made to 225; many children had to eat outside on the playground. Custodian hours were cut, and our school was filthy as a result. I have a master’s degree in education and 13 years of experience, and I live in a 500 square foot basement and eat ramen noodles. I need new glasses, but can’t afford them. I don’t go to the doctor because my health insurance is so lousy, the copays can be hundreds of dollars, whether for well visits or acute illness. My car needs new tires – they are bald – and new brakes, but I know I will never be able to afford them. Although I love teaching, I am afraid I am going to have to leave the teaching profession as soon as I can find other employment, because I simply cannot live on this salary anymore.

    1. I am shocked as I thought this was an African problem!! In a first world country like the USA I guess I would expect far better. 60 in a class in simply crazy. and even 40 is too many. It may have worked in years gone by but no longer the case if the commitment is to the highest quality of education for every child. I had 39 in a Grade 5 class back in the 1970s and it was manageable then but times have changed and so have children, their upbringing, and the society in which they are brought up.

    2. This is how we treat our children. Sad. We can no longer sit in silence allowing hedge fund managers and CEO’s to disrespect our public institutions. Private interests have hijacked our government and our media. Time to knock THEM down a few rungs.

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