The grim prospects facing teachers are echoed in the stories of educators across the country, both from those getting layoff notices and those left to pick up the pieces in crowded classrooms and dwindling resources. Here are just a few of their stories, being shared through NEA’s activism website EducationVotes.  If you would like to interview any of the educators mentioned here, please contact NEA’s Public Relations Department at 202-822-7823.  If you would like to share your own story, please click here.

Alabama Arizona Arkansas
California Colorado Connecticut
Delaware Florida Georgia
Hawaii Idaho Illinois
Indiana Iowa Kansas
Kentucky Maine Maryland
Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Nebraska
Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey
New Mexico New York North Carolina
North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma
Oregon Pennsylvania South Carolina
Tennessee Texas Utah
Vermont Virginia Washington
Wisconsin    

Alabama

Mrs. M
Everyone will be left behind when the class count goes up
Fyffe, Alabama

I am one of 3 or 4 at one school (with 2 or more years teaching experience) in our county who were pink-slipped. Multiple first-year teachers at other schools in our county were not let go. Everything is normally done across the board (the entire county).

I can truly say that everyone will be left behind when the class count goes up. Each year I have had a multitude of students with special needs and/or behavioral problems who made it a definite challenge to teach effectively. I believe that if needed teachers do not return to the classroom it will be near to impossible to teach at all, let alone effectively. Even in the best managed classroom, today’s children have emotional and educational needs that can distract the teacher and other students. This makes learning extremely difficult. Last I heard, school was for educating and was to revolve around the students and their needs in order to create successful adults.

Also, if our aids aren’t brought back there will be very few days that will be considered a beneficial and positive learning environment for any of the students. I am in fear not only for others and my own job, but for the kids that will not get a quality education and be left behind.

Mary D
Why small classes are a necessity in Title I schools
Huntsville, Alabama

Why we must have small classes of 12-15 students:

  1. In Title I schools, children come to us from homes where they typically do not have consistent, positive discipline.
  2. They typically get little positive attention from adults.
  3. They are not able to work in small groups while the teacher is working with another group.
  4. Our students typically come from homes where cursing, name calling, and hitting are a daily occurrence.
  5. Learning positive conflict resolution is difficult for them.

The future of our country depends on a well-educated populace. Title I school children need more attention from the teacher than others. We just lost 7 units, 12 employees. Our children will suffer. Where are our priorities as a nation?

Erin T
Do we want educated children or children who lack survival skills?
Robertsdale, Alabama

I was not renewed as a 1st grade teacher just four months before I was tenured. I have not been able to find another job. I couldn’t even get a job as a substitute. I can’t be considered for a summer teaching position because they can only be offered to teachers in the system.

My teaching license is up for renewal and because I lack three full years of teaching (which I would have surpassed in February of this year), I must take a graduate course to get it renewed. It’s hard to squeeze money out of an account that’s sucking wind as it is. I had to borrow money from family and friends to help pay for the course.

Laying off teachers raises the unemployment rate, takes teachers out of the classroom, increases class size, and takes away from quality education. Do we want to have educated children or children who lack the skills necessary to survive in the real world?

Kayla C
Two education degrees, no job
Bay Minette, Alabama

I was non-renewed due to cost-containment last year as a third year teacher. Since I was not rehired for my fourth consecutive year, I was not tenured. Therefore, I lost my job. I was able to find a teaching position this past January and will work through May. I have already been told that my position will be eliminated after May. I am currently pursuing my Master’s of Arts in Education. I will finish this July. As of July, I will have two education degrees, but no job. Please support the bills that will fund more money for education.

Arizona

Rob H
You can’t get 40 desks in any of our classrooms
Chandler, Arizona

I’m currently a seven-year support personnel employee in Mesa Arizona, the largest school district in the state, I’m told.

Every contract year, it has been my experience that threats of cuts and larger classrooms, for example, are directed at teachers. But at the end of the contract, it is the support personnel who bear the brunt of the cuts and declassification of positions.

Are we part of the system? If so, why aren’t we highlighted more when education is spoken about in the media? I hear of federal stimulus money coming to the district to save jobs, but am told it is only going to be used to save teachers’ jobs.

I also hear talk of 40 students in a classroom next year. You can’t get 40 desks in any of our classrooms. What gives in Mesa, Arizona?

Sally A
NOT passing the education jobs bill would have a huge impact
Glendale, Arizona

I am the mother of two grown children and the grandmother of three. After raising my children to school age, I finished my associate’s degree and then earned a bachelor’s degree. That was in the 80’s, when the economy was in recession. Jobs for teachers were scarce, especially in special areas, so I pursued another career.

After my first husband died, I struggled to make ends meet and went back to get my teaching certification. Like many other teachers, I am frustrated by the lack of respect for education as a profession and the lack of money for programs and basic supplies. Year after year, my students are disappointed when I explain that they can’t keep their clay creations because there is no money to buy a replacement for the 30-year-old kiln that was condemned four years ago.

As a taxpayer and a teacher, I urge Congress to consider the huge impact NOT passing the education jobs bill would have on public schools and the economy as a whole. Please represent our children the future of our country and dedicated educators well. We count on your good judgment.

Robin A
Our district faces $10 million in cuts
Marana, Arizona

In my school district, we have totally lost all our custodians to an outside source. One hundred and thirteen support professionals, 72 teachers, and 8 administrators have received RIF letters. Our district faces $10 million in cuts. We are working on getting the word out to make sure that we get funding, as our state is ranked 50th in the United States, which is sad. I have two boys in school and they are beside themselves. We need someone out there who cares enough to help save important positions.

Alice E
Make children our first priority
Phoenix, Arizona

I have been teaching for 13 years as an art teacher. I took a year off when three of my children got married and another had my second grandchild. Needless to say, when I came back in a different district, I had no seniority. I have been there two years and received my pink slip this spring. I was truly shocked. Putting myself aside, the bigger picture is how our children will be hurt.

Arizona is particularly damaged by last year’s budget cuts. We face large class sizes and may have to look at program cuts. I love teaching and children. They need so much love and care in this busy world that we live in. Parents need support to help raise their children. Our children deserve the very best so they can thrive in the future. We need to make them as our first priority.

Hank R
My job may be safe, but the children I will be teaching aren’t
Tucson, Arizona

I did not receive a “pink slip,” but 33 of 60 teachers at my site did; 300 teachers in my district have been given notice. People continually ask me, “Are you safe?” My reply is, “Yes, but it’s all relative. At what cost?”

In our district, all middle school teachers now have 6 core-content classes (instead of 5), which has in effect increased our work load by 20%. At the same time, we are seeing a 2% reduction in salary. With 35 students per class, that is more than 210 students per day! How can we provide effective teaching? How can we give “personalized instruction?” How can we give constructive, informative feedback? How can we even get to know our students as people?

My job may be safe, but the children I will be teaching aren’t.

Mary C
Fight to fund and save public education
Cottonwood, Arizona

I work at a high school as an instructional aide in special education. I have been an aide for fourteen plus years. Last year, I was affected by budget cuts when my position as a library aide was eliminated, after three years. I was fortunate to be put back in the classroom, but my hours were cut from 8 to 7 to save money, a reduction of about $2,300 per year. I currently gross approximately $15,000 per year.

Please fight to fund and save public education. It is fundamental! The future of our youth and our nation depends on education, and quality public education depends on teachers and all who work in education!

Leslee J
Hug an educator and tell her what a great job she is doing
Tonopah, Arizona

I am an educator of 17 years and have put my heart, soul, and paycheck back into the till. I earn less than my brother who never set foot in a college classroom and I am in debt up to my eyeballs because I wanted to be an educator. I was laid off in April and I am having a tough time with the fact that I don’t have a job for next year for the first time since I became an educator. I am totally lost without knowing where to give my knowledge to children. What do I do?

I also have a 12-year-old daughter who is dependent on me for her support; her daddy is an out of work plumber. We have no job, no insurance, and I feel left out in the cold. My school won’t have a computer class because my position was cut. I left teaching music because I thought computers were the answer and surely schools wouldn’t cut that program. I learned otherwise.

We need to fight to save America and our future: the youth of today! If they don’t have role models and education, how are they going to make something of themselves? Please hug an educator today. Tell her what a great job she is doing with the kids. Fight for education in America!

Barb L
I’d like to believe most people still support public education
Tucson, Arizona

I’m retiring this year. There is no financial benefit to continue teaching. My salary was reduced this year, and would be reduced again if I continued to teach. I’ve been a special education teacher for over 20 years and it took me until my 50s to make an “average” teacher’s salary, only to watch it disappear with the cuts. When I grew up, people were supportive of teachers and public education, and proud of our schools. I would like to believe the majority still feel that way.

Vinnie H
Our school is a family
Hereford, Arizona

I have been an educator for 14 years in Arizona.  I received my Master’s Degree in Bilingual/Multicultural Education in 2000 from Northern Arizona University.  I am presently an ESL Teacher at Village Meadows Elementary School in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

This past Monday, the staff of our school was called to an emergency meeting at 1:40 pm, as soon as the students were dismissed.  We walked in to see our Superintendent and his “Executive Cabinet” standing in our library. There had been a rumor that, in addition to the closure of a district middle school, an elementary campus was also on the chopping block. We felt ‘safe at our campus, primarily because we have a 21st Century Grant that provides before and after school care.

We were mistaken. We were told that unless Proposition 100 passes in Arizona on May 18, our school will be closed at the end of the year, and  even if Prop 100 does pass, our school will close after the 2010-2011 school year.

Our Superintendent assured us that we would all find employment within the district at other sites.  Somehow, this was no consolation for me.  As far as I know, there will be no open ESL positions at any other sites, and I will be required to go back into a regular education classroom.

While I suppose I am lucky to still have employment, I am heartbroken to lose the job I love so much – working with English Language Learners.  We all have a trajectory to our careers, and I finally am in a position where I personally feel that I do the most good for the most kids. I am passionate about ESL and have renewed drive and commitment to my career.

Our school is a family, and we are being torn apart. The kids will be bussed to other, less successful schools across Sierra Vista. They will be separated from friends and teachers they have known since they started school. It is heartbreaking to all of us. Many support staff will lose their jobs, as there will be no place for them at other campuses.

I pray that the people who represent us will do something to save America’s most vulnerable citizens – the children.  The future of the teaching profession is at stake as well.

Susanne D
A ‘Race to the Bottom’
Oro Valley, Arizona

After eighteen years in another state, I was given my pink slip on April 14 so my district could comply with the April 15 deadline.

The problem is the state, not my district. I love my job more than words can express. I teach in two schools, one a Title I school with 95% of students on free lunch. I make a difference in both my low SES and high SES schools.

I’ve already written to the President, my Senators and my Congresswoman but it feels pointless. Arizona is apparently attempting to destroy public education. Even my “Blue Dog Democrat” Congresswoman says she plans to vote “no.”

It is difficult to believe our nation has chosen this path! Where did our leaders get their education? Our children need even lower class sizes, our teachers need to earn a living wage, and most urgently need a job. It looks like we’re having a ‘Race to the Bottom’ on the backs of our children.

This morning I completed my Assessment Center tests for National Board Professional Teaching Standards – but I don’t have a job.

Nancy K
Dreams threatened
Chandler, Arizona

I have been a single parent for 28 years. I have often worked two jobs to provide for myself and two boys.  While working as a county employee I joined the Army Reserves so I could get my teaching credentials.  Now after 14 years of teaching I am in jeopardy of losing everything ‘“ especially my dreams.

Linda B
Action needed at the federal level
Chandler, Arizona

I am a reading interventionist with the Phoenix Elementary School District. Our student- teacher ratio is now 32 to 1. If the proposed one cent state-wide sales tax does not pass in May, the ratio will go up to 38 to 1. It is impossible to give individual attention to kindergarten and first grade students when classes are so large. Over 170 staff have received pink slips.  Even if the tax passes, 50 will lose their jobs unless something is done at the federal level.

Nancy H
Our future is in our children’s hands
Mesa, Arizona

I’m a second year teacher in Arizona who was riffed last year (2009) and riffed again this year (2010). Mother of two boys, the bread winner of my household, dedicated to my profession, had my students’ best interests at heart. Gladly invested time, energy and my own money to improve teaching and create opportunities for my students to learn. I am deeply disappointed to find myself in this situation. I love my profession. Before becoming a teacher, I worked with children for many years in different capacities. A great teacher can make a real difference in a classroom and a child’s life. Our future is in our children’s hands. We need to prepare them well.

Susan C
Forced to leave our family, our church, our friends, and my son’s school
Phoenix, Arizona

 

Today, I was riffed for the second year in a row.  I have been teaching for 15 years and this is my second year in my district. My husband was laid off in February of 2009. As a mother of two and a wife, I have been the financial provider. This year looks much worse than last year. We will be forced to leave the state, our family, our church, our friends, and my son’s school. It is a very sad day for an ‘almost AZ native.’

Betsy W
Don’t just talk about STEM education, fund it!
Tucson, Arizona

I have been teaching middle school science in Arizona for five years and am losing my job. Before teaching, I worked as a professional engineer for 13 years. As part of the PolarTREC Research Experience in the Arctic, I performed research with scientists and shared it with my students. This was a competitive program I was one of 15 teachers chosen out of 200+ applicants. I am one of 120 teachers worldwide participating in the International PolarTEACHERS Conference in Oslo, Norway, in June 2010.

We need to tell the President, the Secretary of Education, and Congress that we cannot just talk about STEM education. We need to fund it!

Louise G
Our children won’t realize their potential unless this insanity stops
Prescott, Arizona

I work in a rural school district where 60+ layoffs have occurred in the last two academic years. This spring, we learned that another 33% of the staff will be laid off, and an additional 15-20% if the one-cent sales tax increase isn’t passed in May by Arizona citizens.

Our children won’t have an opportunity to maximize their potential unless this insanity stops. Children are our future doctors, accountants, brick layers, scientists, auto mechanics, and social workers. The global economy requires that we compete; doing so requires dedication to the task. Dedicated teachers and counselors and paraprofessionals make a difference in the lives of children every day.

Don’t allow even one to child suffer because of this economic downturn!

Mary O
Laid off ‘˜one year shy of Medicare,’ can’t afford COBRA
Surprise, Arizona

My teaching job was lost due to budget cuts, or will be at the end of the 2009-10 school year. I am one year shy of Medicare and I have no job for next year. Who will hire me for only one year? The school district has offered me COBRA for medical care at $375 a month, more if I also want to keep dental and vision. With no income and as a former contract employee I do not qualify for unemployment how can I afford $375 a month? Am I hurt by this? Yes, but thankful, too, that I am not as bad off as some of the others who were let go.

Barb M
Program for gifted students eliminated along with their teachers
Glendale, Arizona

I am a career teacher. While in college, I was steered towards law. They said I was “too smart” to settle for teaching. I didn’t settle; I chose teaching. And for the past 25 years, that is what I have been doing. The hours have been long long enough to require support and sacrifice from my family. The demands are high. Much of my salary goes back into the classrooms where I teach. Summers have been spent earning my Master’s and Doctorate. But the rewards have been great not the financial rewards, but the intangible rewards of interacting with great kids and watching them transform into independent seekers of knowledge.

This will most likely be my last year teaching. Arizona has dramatically cut funding for education. Teaching positions have been cut, administrator positions have been cut, and programs are now being cut. I am a gifted specialist. That is one of the programs slated to be cut. Arizona just passed legislation that eliminates seniority for teachers. In fact, there cannot be even a hint of loyalty or seniority. So when the gifted programs go, all the teachers of the gifted will lose their jobs. We cannot transfer to another teaching position, regardless of spotless records and excellent evaluations and years of dedication and sacrifice. We simply will lose our jobs.

During the summer, if positions open, we will be able to reapply to our district and compete with the general public for another type of teaching position. But with over 50 teaching positions already cut, there simply will be no other positions to apply for.

Maybe I should have pursued the career in law. My grades were certainly high enough. The hours could not be any longer than what I dedicate to teaching. I chose teaching though, partly for the security. I chose teaching, because I knew I could make a difference. It is sad that we cannot support the teachers who have spent their lives supporting a generation of children.

Arkansas

Julia M
Small school sustains big cuts in teaching and learning time
Mountainburg, Arkansas

I teach in a small school in Arkansas of only about 40 teachers. Our three vocational teachers were cut, along with much needed learning time from a 200-day contract to a 190-day contract, which resulted in a significant pay cut. Three teachers who are retiring are not being replaced and one teacher was laid off. This needs to stop. Our students are suffering in classrooms too full for a positive learning environment.

California

Donna D
Wake up, Washington!
Garden Grove, California

Budget cuts are threatening about 700 teachers in my district. We are currently on a lay-off list, waiting to see if we will be laid off or possibly rehired because we voted for a pay cut (furlough days) to save some jobs. I have been teaching in this district for 8 years!

At my K-8 school, we are losing funding for our gardening program, which has been teaching students how to grow their own vegetables for over 20 years. This hands-on class gives the students the chance to start with bare ground, learn how to prepare soil, plant and maintain crops, and enjoy the harvest of fresh vegetables to take home throughout the school year.

Class sizes are increasing, too. We are a Title 1 school with many English language learners; they will have a harder time acquiring language skills and becoming proficient because teachers will have more students to serve. We have also lost the college aides who work directly with students.

It’s like we are pulling the rug out from under our kids and telling them that their education is not really that important, that we won’t give them the resources they need to be successful in school or later in life. What are we doing to our future? Wake up, Washington! Education of our youth should be the MOST important item in our budget!

Derek C
Budget cuts hurt our students and staff
Apple Valley, California

My wife and I are both teachers for the California public schools. We are both facing significant cuts to our salary and benefits this year. Class size reduction exists in name only the student-teacher ratio in primary classes in the Hesperia Unified School District is 32 to 1. We continue to spend our own money to provide an engaging and effective learning environment. Our school year is expected to be lessened by five days, and teacher work days are also to be taken away. State budget cuts and funding delays have significantly hurt our students and staff.

Joan K
Retired teacher and librarian is afraid for the future
Los Angeles, California

I am a retired teacher and librarian. Libraries in the Los Angeles Unified School District and all over California are closing. Our students won’t be able to access public libraries because they are also being cut. It is clear to me that the students of Los Angeles will truly suffer from the closure of their school libraries. I must admit that I am scared for our future. I feel that the rich do not care one bit about the welfare and education of the “poor.’

Philip S
We will soon see the end of public education as we know it
Indio, California

My wife and I are both teachers, and now both unemployed as a result of budget cuts at our local school district. As we are expecting our first child in a few months, this situation is financially devastating. We are both experienced teachers, with over 20 years teaching between us. Many of our friends and colleagues are also being laid off. We have been told not to expect to be rehired.

I have also heard that class size is going from 35 to 45 students per teacher. I cannot begin to predict how little will be accomplished with so many students and so few teachers. Many of our students are English language learners (Spanish-speaking), so it will be very challenging for those teachers who stay who know little, if any, Spanish.

In California, we also have adopted a full inclusion model that places each disabled student into the regular classroom. I have seen some classrooms where, with over half of the students with significant learning disabilities, very little learning takes place. The atmosphere is also tense with rising pressure for students to perform on standardized tests. I am very pessimistic about the direction of education. I believe that we will soon see the end of public education as we know it.

Karen L
I certainly don’t look forward to teaching an additional 10 students
Chino, California

Last year, we added five students to our classrooms and lost many teachers. Three neighborhood schools were closed, swelling the other schools greatly. This coming school year, we’re adding another five students to all primary classrooms, effectively eliminating the class size reduction we fought for many years ago. Also, we have five furlough days next year. We had 160 teachers take the retirement incentive package at the end of this school year, so we are not seeing layoffs next year.  But I certainly don’t look forward to teaching an additional 10 students. Many supplemental programs, intervention, music, and physical education programs are also cut for next year. How tragic for our students, our future!  California’s education budget has been cut 60%.

Jerry F
All scrutiny falls on our language arts and math instruction
Clovis, California

I teach in a rural district that has hit district improvement status. While there is no question that we must improve our core instruction, all scrutiny falls on our language arts and math instruction, with the result that we teach little else. We leave behind our future scientists. In not delivering history instruction, we fail to stir the souls of those who would transform our nation and our world. The art student can only pray that I don’t catch him drawing during math. Those who love music are limited to sneaking a listen on their ipods.

But I had an experience this past week that will inject diversity and life into my teaching next year, no matter what the district observers decide to write on their clipboards. I attended a graduation for an ex-student at a charter school in our area. When I heard that over 400 students were graduating, I wondered how it kept so many teenagers interested in school. The answer came in the captivating singing and dancing that was an integral part of the ceremony, and valedictions that rivaled Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Students had won art and academic decathlon championships at the state level. It seemed that no student was left behind because the principal and faculty made it a priority to find something that aroused each one’s intellectual vitality.

I cannot duplicate that school’s art or music program in my self-contained 5th grade classroom. But, on a smaller scale, I will once again have a “painting of the day” and a “song of the day,” as well as consistently integrate science and social studies into my language arts instruction. If I get “marked down” for offering my students a rich, textured academic program that actually keeps them interested in school and life, I’m sure there’s a song for that, too one I will not share with my students. I already have the chorus worked out: “You can kiss my No Child Left Behind.”

Carol B
Program cuts limit options for special needs students
Mountain View, California

I recently wrote to the members of the school board where I teach, Los Altos, California. This small elementary school district is in an affluent area. We receive a lot of money from our PTAs and a local education foundation. Though we are dealing with increased class size and fewer elective options, the main impact on my students is that the school board is completely discontinuing our Foods class. Below is my letter of concern, which was addressed to all members of our school board.

Dear School Board Members:

During the retirement/annual LASD picnic last Friday, our superintendent stated that all programs have been restored. I was first excited, then concerned, and finally very upset and disappointed when I learned that this was not true.

The Foods program is a significant program at both middle schools. This class is one of the few offered at Blach School in which students don’t ask, ‘When will I ever need to use this?’ Kids know, as do we all, that food is essential to life. Discontinuing this program does a tremendous disservice to our students. I was overjoyed when I thought, briefly, (based upon the superintendent’s statement) that this program had been restored. I was very disheartened when, upon asking the superintendent directly if Foods was back, I was told, ‘No, that is the only program that has not been restored.’

The Foods class not only teaches students how to cook, but also teaches following directions, time management, teamwork and sequencing all life skills. Students watch demonstrations by the teacher and learn a range of skills that they can put to work immediately. On lab days, students know the routine: they start off by reading the recipes and highlighting the action words. They organize within their groups to assemble, cook, and eat the food. They also learn to clean up after themselves, cooperatively. They learn about balanced nutrition, the value of cooking ‘from scratch’ and budgeting time when preparing a meal. Life skills.

As the special day class teacher at Blach, I have relied heavily on Kris Andersen’s Foods program. This is an outstanding class for students who are not stellar academicians. When trying to find appropriate electives for my special needs students, Foods is usually either their first or second choice. Nearly all of my students over the past ten years have taken foods at least once. Kris has also been a delight to work with. No matter what the disability, learning or behavioral challenge my students have, Kris has worked positively with them. She is flexible and supportive of all students, but most especially with those having limited reading skills, math skills, social skills and/or physical disabilities.

Blach has many classes for high-achieving students. I honor that. However, there are few options for students who are in the lowest quartile. If such a student cannot sing and has poor fine-motor skills, the only courses which are manageable options are those offered by Jeremy L. (engineering, video production and computers) and Kris A. (Foods).

With her outstanding teaching skills, organization, creativity, and compassion, Kris is a role model to all who work with her. What a tremendous loss it will be to our entire school community if we are not able to continue this outstanding program.

Wanda K
Class size increasing to 38-40; music, art and computer are being cut
Antioch, California

Today is the day. I am one of the many laid off teachers in our district and have been bumped by someone with more seniority. I am a computer elective teacher and there are very few districts that are hiring any one with my credential. This is despite the fact we are supposed to be preparing our students to compete in the workforce with 21st century skills.

I have a master’s degree, bachelor’s degree and two teaching credentials, along with certification to teach English as a second language. It was suggested that I get a math credential now. I have over 20 years of experience teaching, but because I took a chance to work in a new district three years ago, I am now expendable due to budget cuts, no matter my qualifications.

I worry about our students and the lack of skills and degradation of the education they are getting. With class sizes increasing to 38-40 and music, art and computer classes being cut, our students will become illiterate in academics and culture.

I am depressed and angry, and it seems that no one is listening to US!  By the time they do listen, it will be too late.

Michael B
Older educators are being forced out
Whittier, California

This is my 32nd year as an educator in special education. I transferred to Fullerton Joint Union High School District 2 years ago, when it was a financially solid district. In January, I was informed I was a non re-elect as I would have been tenured starting in September. I am fortunate to have retirement in place, so I can survive, but must pay for my own medical starting in October.

The disturbing trend I am seeing is that educators in my age group are being forced out. This is going to leave a big gap in our educational system. Educators with great experience and great knowledge, which our students need now more than ever, are being replaced by young educators with little experience and no mentors. Our education system is more about testing and numbers than developing responsible, lifelong learning human beings.

Maureen H
Sad to see the passion of teachers squashed like bugs
Brentwood, California

After 17 years in this profession, my second career, I find myself unemployed. I am distraught, to say the least, and not sure where to go or what to do. My daughter, a college graduate, is living with me as she is unable to attain employment that would provide her a stable living on her own. I am turning 53 this year, and had counted on this being my profession until retirement.

I fear for the next generation and how it is being prepared to meet the demands of an ever-changing world. Public education is charged with providing a social and academic framework for students, as well as the necessity of a work ethic. But with so many influences and continually changing expectations, many students are unable to keep up with the pace. Nor are their teachers, try as they might. The task is daunting, especially with increased class size and drastically reduced resources.

Many energetic, enthusiastic teachers with zest and passion in their hearts are leaving the profession. I witnessed it firsthand today. It is very sad to see the passion of some remarkable teachers squashed like bugs. I cried when I drove away from my school for the last time today. I would have liked to retire from the profession in just a few years, but that is no longer a possibility for I have bills to pay and I simply cannot wait to be rehired. Time, unfortunately, is not on my side.

C. O.
No nurse, no support, class size has doubled and continues to grow
El Monte, California

Our school no longer has a nurse; the nurse for the district is shared between all the schools. Class sizes have jumped doubling or more and are continuing to do so. Support such as supervisors and paraprofessionals/aides has been cut dramatically. In one recent instance, right after school, a kid was chased by a gang and no supervisors on duty. Teachers have had COLA, step and column freezes, and face decreases in salary and benefits.

Wanda K
K-3 classes will have 32 students, other grades 40 or more
Antioch, California

My district has laid off about 120 teachers. I am one of them. Although I have 20 years in education, three years ago I switched to school districts to start a computer class at a relatively new school. I am being laid off because I have only been employed in this district for three years.

The bigger story is that the size of K-3 classes will rise from 20 to about 32, and other classes from about 36 to about 40-42. Teaching is no longer happening at this point. Struggling students will not get the assistance they need to be successful. Students who are capable will lose out because they will not get the attention they need to challenge themselves.

I don’t know if I will remain in education. It continues to be assaulted by federal and state governments as an easy way to cut budgets. Yet, more and more is being asked of teachers in the classroom without federal or state support.

Skip J
We grieve for the loss of a school culture focused on student success
San Bruno, California

I am the principal of a small K-6 elementary school (El Crystal) in the San Bruno Park School District 8 in San Bruno, California. We educate about 240 students with a staff of 11 teachers. Seven of those 11 just received notice that due to lack of funds to reduce class size, their services outstanding services, by the way will no longer be needed. Next year, in kindergarten through grade three we will go from 20 students to 31 students per class.

In 2008, the State of California recognized us as a distinguished school for raising our Academic Performance Index from the low 700’s to more than 850 over a five-year span while maintaining Adequate Yearly Progress for all our subgroups. We are also a demonstration school for the integration of curriculum and instruction.

These achievements were a product of:

  • Small classes
  • Resourceful use of data to direct the teaching of non-proficient students
  • Small group instruction
  • Using technology for enrichment and intervention
  • Recruiting young, enthusiastic, and dedicated teaching professionals
  • Audiobook take-home program for students reading below grade level
  • Establishing a school culture focused on student success

I look into the eyes of the ‘magnificent seven’ we are losing and my heart breaks. For most, it will be the end of their teaching careers. All of us at El Crystal walk around as if in grief. We grieve for the loss our school culture; for the loss of great, young, enthusiastic teachers; and for the loss of our ability to reduce class size.

The economic downturn seems to have so desensitized our nation that it seems no longer to care. Please help us find the resources to support sound, basic education for all students.

Maralyn S
Assistant principal for three schools finds job ‘impossible’
West Hills, California

My job has tripled. I am an assistant principal split among three schools. It has become impossible to get to know the students, and I am in charge of special education services. I just sit and do IEPs all day. I don’t know the families, the students, or the teachers. While I’m lucky to still have a job, it has become ridiculous. I am not helping students or anyone this way.

Lillian V
Let’s pull together and protect one another
Rio Linda, California

This is the second year in a row I am pink-slipped, but in different school districts. Having been acquainted with military life, I can be ready to move within 48 hours. But what hurts me most is not the prospect of moving or leaving friends, but ‘us versus them’ attitudes: tenured versus non-tenured, experienced versus new, technology adept versus technology phobic. Such attitudes hurt us all.

I agree with colleagues who observe that if there is money to bail out the banks and corporations, why isn’t there money to save the teachers? Isn’t it better to educate a life than to preserve it in a cage in later years? How would the country operate if one day, we decided to go without teachers, principals or district staff?

We should not work to protect ourselves, but to protect one other.

Denys A
Political systems have shut down, citizenry believes it has no power
Oakland, California

I left my tenured job in a troubled Bay Area school district in June 2006. In November 2007, I was hired by another troubled district and worked in a failed school for two years. After the first year I was laid off, but then rehired last minute. The following year (spring 2009) I was not re-elected perhaps an economical way to decrease staff.

This past school year, 2009-10, while on unemployment, I volunteered in another, stable school district where I have an active application on file and substituted a bit. The school and I were a good fit for awhile. My hopes of securing a position in that district were dashed, however, after it also experienced a huge round of layoffs this past March.

My story is not unique, unfortunately. I have 12 years of experience. I have taught K-5, all subjects including English-language learners. Prior to earning my credential, I was an arts education specialist, a useful background in elementary schools. As I look, with a degree of horror, at a second year of unemployment, I am prompted to consider other career and income options.

Like so many of my colleagues, I am committed, inspired and talented. We are being kept from the students who need us because our federal and state political systems have shut down. Our citizenry believes it has no power.

Besides love, health, shelter, food and clothing, nothing is as important to humanity as education. We have started a new century and are facing challenges that can be met with a free and creative intellect a renaissance. Education is always at the forefront in such times.

Solutions are visible beyond the current, fossilized impasse. If it takes a citizens’ awakening to blast open that impasse, then that is what must occur.

Sharon C
Fewer and fewer choices are available to our students
Anaheim, California

It seems that each day just gets worse. While my own job is not in jeopardy at the moment, my school is losing teachers again this year. This means our students will again suffer larger classes than ever. More importantly, this year we are “surplusing” our only foreign language teacher. We live in a community with a high percentage of native Spanish speakers and our Spanish for Spanish speakers class has had a major impact on the English skills of these students.

As more and more teachers disappear, fewer and fewer choices are available to our students. The only thing increasing is the number of students expected to be proficient, along with class size. I have over 200 students this year. I have no idea how high it will climb next year. The district has taken categorical funding out of the schools due to budget cuts, so there has been no funding for technology, supplemental materials, or outside professional development.

In the past, we have endured budget cuts, increases in class size, curriculum changes, and severe accountability, but never all at the same time. I am frightened for our future generations. No one listens to the teachers in the classrooms.

Kris K
K-3 student-teacher ratio is going from 20:1 to 30:1
Apple Valley, California

As a parent and teacher, I am frustrated by the effects of our current economic woes on our children they are our future. This is my ninth year teaching, my third year receiving a RIF notice, and my first year being laid off.

I chose this profession after many years of soul searching. The first time I volunteered in my oldest child’s kindergarten classroom, I was hooked. I finally knew what I was meant to be! I went back to college to become a teacher while raising my children and working. I received top grades in the majority of courses and graduated cum laude. I worked hard because I enjoyed it! I LOVE teaching even on my worst days and will not know what to do this coming school year.

I’m sad for myself. I’m also sad for my coworkers, my grade level team, and my school we work together as a family. Mostly, I’m sad for my past, current, and could-have-been future students. They do not understand why there isn’t enough money to keep teachers. They feel as if they are not important enough. When teachers lose their jobs, students lose too.

My district has gone from a 20:1 student-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grades to 30:1 in kindergarten (a year ago); it projects 30:1 in first through third grades next year. We’ve cut and we’ve cut for the last three years, and still it’s not enough. WHEN will it be enough?

Akilah L
Not sure how my family and I will make it after school is over
Lancaster, California

This is the second year in a row that I have been RIFd. Last year, my RIF was rescinded, but this year the picture does not look so promising. I have been teaching in a comprehensive high school for three years now and have tenure. The entire time I have been here, I have taught all six periods. So many students are enrolled in our school that many of us teach all day without a prep or conference period.

I am married with three children (all under the age of 10) and the primary financial provider for my family. Coming to school is a struggle each and every day. This week has been especially hard because it is my last week with my students they are graduating next Friday. I am not sure how my family and I will make it after school is over. With so many cuts, what are we to do?

All my classes are too full one of my Advanced Placement classes has 42 students. Yet layoffs are still occurring. Education is important not just to our students, but for our nation’s future. I tell my students that one day they will run this country and will take care of me. Continuing to cut education budgets makes no sense!

Wanda K
Our country is in danger of losing its brain trust
Antioch, California

I have over 21 years in education and have gotten a pink slip. I took a position at my current school three years ago, developing a computer curriculum for a new school. I have a master’s of science degree in educational technology and two teaching credentials.

Our district chose to let go 140 teachers, most of whom have multiple subject credentials. Neither my secondary credential nor computer concepts nor applications were considered. Nor were my master’s degree or my years of experience considered.

I am not old enough to retire. However, if I don’t work in education, I don’t pay into my retirement. I am the sole income earner in my household at the moment, providing health benefits for me and my family. I face a tough economic climate in the Bay area, where folks are being laid off faster than they are being hired.

I still do not understand how billions of dollars can be given to banks and auto corporations and yet people question giving money to schools for student’s education. Our country is in danger of losing its brain trust and the politicians don’t seem to care.

Heather S
The situation is out of control and needs to be addressed
Indio, California

My husband and I are being laid off from Desert Sands Unified School District. We are both highly qualified according to No Child Left Behind standards. I have been teaching elementary school for 7 years, and my husband has taught middle school math for more than 12 years. We moved out here three years ago from Los Angeles. Due to seniority rules, we are being let go. We have received “pink slips” the last three years out here. The situation is out of control and needs to be addressed.

Our students are suffering every year that class size increases. We as teachers are being forced to find more stable industries and leave the profession we love so much. Help us and our students improve schools.

Tiffanie G
Highly qualified, bilingual teacher laid off due to break in service
Los Angeles, California

I began teaching in 1998. I have all my credentials and am highly qualified. I am also bilingual and have taught every elementary school grade. However, I have received a pink slip stating that my services will no longer be needed at the end of this academic year because I had a break in service and my new seniority date is now April of 2008.

Tara M
It is fiscally irresponsible to shortchange our children
Middletown, California

Both my husband and I are teachers. He teaches special education at Clear Lake High School in Lakeport and I teach 5th grade at Minnie Cannon Elementary School in Middletown. My husband has been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, has completed treatment, but is not sure if he will be healthy enough to teach next year. I just received my final pink slip. Of 8 teachers at my school, 3 have been laid off. Eleven teachers in my district have been laid off in total. I am number 11, meaning I am first back if money can be found. All of our instructional aides have been pink slipped. Our school board is sitting on a 5% Emergency Reserve Fund, but, to date, has not listened to parents or teachers who have pointed out that our district is in crisis and it is time to release some of these funds. In addition, several school board members enjoy administration-level health care, not a normal perk for an elected position meant to represent the best interests of the children.

My son attends school at Minnie Cannon, which is my community as well. If we lose my position, we lose this support system. We must fund education. It is fiscally irresponsible to shortchange our children they are our future.

Corinne B
I pour my heart into my work and I see it as a labor of love
Pleasanton, California

I am a third-year teacher in the Tracy, California, public school district. I entered the profession after a 20-year career in public service as a federal employee, then a University of California employee in the intelligence community.

I decided to become a teacher after watching my daughter’s kindergarten teacher work her magic in the classroom. That spark led me to get my credential several years ago. Timing is everything and today I am facing a second year of layoff. I was spared last year, hired back just before school began, and I had my best year ever! This time, budgets in Tracy are in tatters, and 103 of us are on the layoff list.

Like so many of my colleagues, I teach to enrich the lives of my students. I pour my heart into my work and I see it a labor of love, not a ‘job.’ After I leave each day, often 3 hours after the school day ends, I prepare for the next day, week or month at home. Long hours are part of my commitment and I love what I do. As the year winds down, many teachers are looking forward to a summer break. All I can think about is how much I will miss teaching, learning, sharing, and growing if I don’t get re-hired.

I didn’t remain idle last year when the handwriting was on the wall for jobs. I got a second credential to teach social studies in middle and high school, and to increase my opportunity to retain a job. Even with this, I’m near the bottom of the list for seniority.

I remain hopeful. What more can I do?

Azizi S
Alvord Unified School District’s teacher-of-the-year laid off
Moreno Valley, California

I am a teacher who has been laid off despite the fact that I was chosen as teacher of the year for my entire district. This is the second year in a row I have received a layoff notice. It deeply saddens me to think that I won’t be allowed to do what I have been called to do: teach. I will miss my colleagues and my students a great deal. I can only hope that some help will come to relieve the financial troubles that my district is facing, and that I, Alvord Unified School District’s 2009-2010 teacher of the year, can continue to shape and mold the lives of America’s youth.

Troy K
System of seniority needs to be reevaluated
San Clemente, California

This year, I was honored with National Board Certification. I had worked very hard the previous year reflecting on my teaching and creating a portfolio and video tapes to become the best teacher I could. I did not do it for a stipend. There wasn’t one. I did it for my students and for me. Sadly, it did not matter.

When I received my results this December and learned that I had passed with high scores, I had no one to celebrate with. I had been laid off in June due to budget cuts. After five years of teaching, I was now a highly qualified and accomplished teacher without a classroom. The only teacher in my district to achieve the honor, it was a bittersweet moment. The only thing I lacked was seniority.

I was laid off in the mid-’80s too. I worked for the airlines during that time. Twenty years later, I was asked why I wasn’t in the classroom as a teacher. As room parent, it was obvious I was good with the students and had a special way with the kids. I decided to leave my career of 20 years to go back into teaching. I was told there was a great need for teachers. Yet, five years later, here I am. I work as a substitute in my district. Because I had tenure, I am paid a decent wage.

But it was never about the money. It was about creating a learning environment that promoted inspired and motivated students to learn and be all they could be. Personally, I think the whole system of seniority needs to be reevaluated.

Steve T
Teaching is my passion, but we can barely make ends meet
Apple Valley, California

I’ve been teaching my entire adult life and it is my passion and vocation. I will probably need to find a second job to stay afloat in order to keep my home and pay off loans from my two children having gone to college. We barely make ends meet now and we are very frugal. After 32 years in the classroom, do I attempt to change direction in my life?

Pamela S
Why are we being punished?
Pinole, California

Our district just eliminated health care benefits for our dependents. This is a terrible problem for me, a single mother of two teenagers. There were no options just cut off in January, middle of the school year.

Our class sizes were also increased, so my friend’s job in 3rd grade was eliminated. This happened in most schools in my district, so there are few jobs for her to apply for.

We are really hard working, dedicated teachers with great ideas who are willing to try anything to help our students. Why are we being punished? We might have to get out of the profession.

Marci M
It seems like our lives are on hold
La Mirada, California

I have been an employee in the Paramount Unified School district since 1999. I started out working part-time as a teacher’s aide as I worked my way through college. I started teaching in 2005, although I was hired as a temporary teacher. I had my full credential, but that was my district’s policy. The following year, I was still under a temporary contract. I am tenured now, but have received a pink slip this year and last year. I have my master’s degree now and my husband and I just bought our first home in August. He is a substitute teacher, so there will be no jobs for him this coming school year because all of the teachers who receive pink slips (including me) with have first dibs on the substitute jobs. There is no way we will be able to afford our mortgage payment and other bills. It seems like our lives are on hold. I am always stressed out and wondering about our future. It makes me so furious that this is how educators are being treated today. I have always wanted to be a teacher and I don’t know what I will do if that is taken away from me. It is my passion in life to work with children and make a difference in their lives.

Johnny T
Teaching is kids, their lives, and so much more
Carlsbad, California

I’m a 4th grade teacher at Reynolds Elementary in Oceanside, California. I made a career change 10 years ago and it’s the best thing I ever did. Now, after 10 years, I received a pink slip.

I’ve become a part of not only the school, but the community. We’re not just talking about the loss of a job in my life I’ll find another one. We need to see how this job carries with it so much more. My students from my first year of teaching, and through the years, continue to visit, grow, and mature looking for direction and advice. They look to their teacher for help in dealing with life’s challenges.

It’s not just the academic instruction, increasing class sizes, and what goes on from 8:15 to 3:00. Teaching is kids, their lives, and so much more.

Jim B
Cuts will destroy stellar math program in rural area
Chico, California

I am a middle school math teacher in a rural area hard hit by the recession. The teachers at my school decided we could give our students as good an education as the best private school. And we do.

All our math teachers meet weekly for hours. Our Algebra 1 students have for years scored 80% to 95% proficient or advanced on the California CST when the state average is 53%.

Our math and science classes are coordinated. Our “science ambassadors” program has been recognized for its cutting edge, amazing successes.

I could list many more strengths, but all this could be destroyed if our funding is cut as has been proposed.

The proposals on the table would raise our class sizes, shorten the school year, cut our supply budgets, and cut our pay. Our wonderful school, which has provided truly world class opportunities for some great students, will be doomed to sliding back.

Our students deserve better. All students deserve better.

Jessica M
Don’t sacrifice a generation to close a short-term budget gap
San Mateo, California

Education cuts are a counterproductive response to economic crisis. We cannot sacrifice a generation of students to close a short-term budget gap. Economic recovery requires a well-educated population.

I am an educator on the peninsula. I have been working in my school district for four years and was finally granted a full-time position teaching fourth grade last year. I have worked my entire life to become a teacher, the only occupation that I have ever desired. I have no experience in any other sort of career path. I have gone to college and graduate school, and continue to attend classes to enrich the education of my students and myself. I am a lifelong learner. The amazing teachers I had as a child instilled this in me. I hope that I have instilled it in the students who I have taught this year. I hope to instill a love of learning in more students. I will not be able to do that without my job next year.

When the laws regarding tenure require new teachers to be laid off, it is more than just discouraging. It is disheartening and unbelievable. It seems that the tenure system is working against new teachers with fresh ideas and stamina which is exactly what our education system and the students need. It is difficult to keep my head up and continue teaching when it is so obvious that the state does not value the job that I am doing.

Diane W
Education should be the last place to cut when the budget falls short
Grass Valley, California

I teach kindergarten, and it is my second year teaching. I received my pink slip on April 15, 2010, which stated my last day of work will be June 11, 2010.

When you receive a pink slip, it feels like a little black cloud hanging over your head all day, and every day. Even though I am still cheerful with the children and parents, the fact that I may not be able to teach next year is always underlying.

The children are young, so I don’t share a whole lot of this with them. They have their own struggles, just by growing up. The parents, on the other hand, are very disheartened and I feel the same way.

Young children, especially, deserve a nurturing and caring teacher. I hope the state legislators understand how important education is to children (who are our future state legislators/business people). I write this story so that it might help bring to light the impact of losing teachers means to our society. Education should be the last place to cut when the budget falls short.

Christine C
Combining two grades in one class shortchanges kids
Pomona, California

As a result of the lay-offs in my school, we are faced with combination classes from K through 5th grade, which don’t serve either the teachers or the students very well there simply is not time to teach two separate, complete curriculums. Those kids will get what they need to meet standards in language arts and math, if they’re lucky, but nothing else. In my district, teachers went without raises for 3 years to prevent layoffs. We’ve increased class size K-3. And still we’re losing nearly half our staff at my school, and all the schools in my district are losing teaching staff, as well as support staff. In what other profession do we expect higher results with drastically fewer resources? Don’t we value our children, or our future?

Katherine G
Our children’s education is not as important as the almighty dollar
Oceanside, California

I am a Special Education Instructional Assistant. This is my 30th year working for the district and I will be losing an hour every day and furloughed for 5 days. The district is asking for a 5% pay cut on top of that. We are already one of the lowest paid groups working in education with direct contact daily with our learning disabled students. Not only is this not fair to our students, but will be a hardship for me. It has gotten to the point our children’s education is not as important as the almighty dollar. When will children be the focus of those in charge of the money and not those higher up who are not taking their fair share of the cuts? As for me, I’ve had to look into an affordable living unit and hope I can make things work out while looking for another part-time job. I wish I could retire!

Annie S
I teach for the moments when students light up
San Francisco, California

I am an actress, speechwriter, therapist, security guard, researcher, typist, coach, disciplinarian, and custodian. Every day, I deliver five-hour original, interactive, educational performances for 120 moody, often reluctant participants. After that, I spend several hours assessing their performance and continue working at home at night preparing for the next day’s original production.

Yes, I’m a teacher a 25-year-old first-year high school English teacher, my days filled with panic and disbelief. Why am I hanging out with a bunch of oily, fidgety 15-year-olds? What am I doing working myself to exhaustion, grading and prepping in the evenings? I cruised through high school and college with straight A’s; I thought I had school figured out. But being a teacher is nothing like being a student.

Figuring out how to teach 120 students with differing needs, linguistic backgrounds, and often conflicting personalities is a tremendous challenge. I have lessons that fall apart completely; I end up scrapping everything I’ve so meticulously planned and just try to hold on till the bell rings. I’ve fought back tears trying to rein in 30 boisterous sophomores. I’ve watched students with enormous intelligence fail due to plagiarism, depression, eating disorders or problems in the home.

Through it all, I do not give up. I get up again the next day and drag myself back to school because I know that when I get there, my students will give me energy and make me laugh.

I remember the moment in the computer lab when Juan sheepishly called me over: ‘Uh, Ms. Sterling, I don’t know how this happened, but I think my nose ring fell into my keyboard’ ‘¦ the time my first-period class decided to call the Greek god Hephaestus, ‘Hepatitis’ ‘¦ when the fifth-period students began referring to synonyms as ‘cinnamons.’ Then there are the little, goofy questions I get. Like, ‘Ms. Sterling, do you got swagger?’ Damn right, I do.

Finally, there are the moments I teach for: seeing students light up discussing the author’s message about human nature in Lord of the Flies; calming students who get too excited during their competitive vocabulary review games, or watching their creative interpretations of the fight scene between Tybalt and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.

Two months ago my school board dealt with its budget shortfall by approving ‘reductions in force.’ On March 10, I received a pink slip notifying me that, despite my stellar performance evaluations, I would not have a job next year. How do I feel about this? I’ve been told that receiving a pink slip as a first-year teacher in California is something like a rite of passage; this is my initiation.

But why? Why do we undervalue education, our children and teachers so much in our state?

I feel angry that after giving all of myself this year, I am being fired. But where do I direct this anger? At the school board forced to make painful budget cuts?  At the legislature that can’t seem to find common ground? At California voters?

Mainly, though, I feel sad, because I love my students and the community in which I work. My fellow teachers and I are a constant in our students’ lives; often we are the only stability they know, and they depend on us and trust us. I know I will be missed, and I am sad because I will not be able to continue to work and grow with this community I’ve come to love.

Zulaikha S
Don’t believe it when they say, ‘We need math and science teachers’
San Rafael, California

Four years ago, I left a successful 20-year career in engineering research and development to go in to teaching. I took out student loans to pay for my credential program and worked very hard to learn the skills necessary to be an effective teacher. I loved it! But I chose the wrong time to make that switch. I’ve been laid off and at 55 years old, my chances of getting another teaching job are slim. Do not believe it when they say, ‘We need math and science teachers’ or ‘Bring your engineering expertise to the classroom.’

Kevin W
Sometimes people forget that teachers are not the only staff being laid off
Tuolumne, California

I think that sometimes people forget that teachers are not the only staff being laid off. I have been both a teacher and a counselor. Counseling elementary students is my current position, but I received a pink slip (the first in my 37 year career in education).  I know the essential part that teachers play in the education of our nation’s children, but I also know that in my role as counselor I can sometimes make it possible for students to learn and take advantage of the opportunities given to them by their teachers.   I believe that I can make an even bigger difference in the lives of children who are severely depressed, anxious, or undergoing incredibly stressful home situations. There are so few mental health services available in rural areas of California, that a school counselor may be the only psychological support for these children. I believe that we should recognize the value of the support personnel as we lament the continued cuts to education. Thanks for the chance to share.

Jeniffer M
Passion for teaching ‘being ripped from her’
Apple Valley, California

I have been a teacher for the last 5-1/2 years. They have been the most challenging and gratifying 5-1/2 years of my life. This year, I was the recipient of a pink slip along with 315 other certificated and classified employees of our school district.  I went through the office the other day and a parent of one of my former students stopped me to ask if she could request to have her second son in my classroom next year. I had to tell her no.

I love my job, I will miss working with students, I will miss the challenge and excitement of finding lessons that help students learn new things.

However, this is nothing compared to what the students have to look forward to. Our district is shutting two schools down, moving 6th grade back to the elementary schools and combining all middle schools with their neighboring elementary schools to create K-8 schools. Due to the massive teacher layoffs, the schools will no longer look anything like what the students are used to seeing. They will not recognize half of the teachers that they were used to seeing and greeting every day. My school alone had 17 out of 30 teachers pink slipped. The students are confused. The parents are angry. The teachers are devastated. We are not only being pushed out into a job market that has non-existent teaching jobs, there are no jobs at all! We cannot even go back to school because California State universities and community colleges are so full and underfunded, they aren’t taking anymore students. Programs have been cut in every level of education.

I don’t want another career. I wanted to teach, it is my passion. That passion is being ripped from me. I will no longer be able to see students’ eyes light up when they “get it.’ This to me is a tragedy.

Jen O
We must value education
Palm Springs, California

After teaching “at risk” students in Title 1 schools for the last eight years I once again received a pink slip. I am a highly qualified, highly regarded, and experienced teacher who lost my tenure because I dared to move in order to teach in an alternative school in an under-served neighborhood in southern CA.

I have consistently increased my students’ attendance, academic achievement, and CST scores, and I have been commended by all of my employers in my evaluations. Despite my performance, my work ethic and integrity, I continue to face layoffs due to economic shortages that can be clearly traced back to overspending by our government. As it is, we spend more money killing and injuring people (war) and imprisoning them than we do on teaching them.

We all know education is the key to success in America and yet we continue to place obstacles in the road to achievement and then fault teachers for the outcome.  Despite the fact that many of us love our chosen profession, we are not tied to this sinking ship. Back in the day, job security was the only trade off for being underpaid, undervalued, and overworked.  If we truly value education we will stand behind our teachers and make funding for our schools a priority.

Hanh T
Classes getting too big
Westminster, California

Due to increasing class sizes, we have elementary class sizes as large as 38 students in upper grades. These are young children and they need more attention.  We try to implement all the programs our district is asking us to teach but it’s impossible with so many students in the classroom.

Some might say we don’t know how to teach our students to behave. Let me ask you this: Have you ever been anywhere where adults are asked to sit quietly and listen to a speaker for 30 minutes or more? If you have, you’ll notice that after 15 minutes several adults are starting to shift in their seats or whispering to their neighbors. After a few more minutes, some more adults are stirring and talking. Furthermore, you’ll notice that the larger the group, the more adults there are that are shifting and talking. Why does this phenomenon not apply to children? It does, and that’s why we need to control class size.

Amanda P
Time to speak up
Fontana, California

I have been a teacher for more than five years in California. I went through the UC system for six years to get here. Last year I received a pink slip at my Middle School. I was fortunate, unlike 124 of my colleagues, to get rescinded for this school year and be able to stay at the school where I had been.

This year I am not as lucky. Again, the day before Spring Break, my district sent pink slips and I received one once again. “Here’s your slip, please sign it, enjoy and relax on your three weeks off and come back prepped for CST’s (California State Tests).’

It is very stressful and taxing on morale not to know if I can teach my students next year or not. The last five years I have seen a positive change in all of my students. My last two schools have been in Program Improvement and we have successfully exited from Year 5 PI and Year 3 PI. This budget cutting makes people argue and fight over jobs. It does not build community and cooperation within school families. It breaks up good things that are happening. It’s rather disheartening.

Three years ago the State Superintendent was standing in my classroom telling me and our staff what great educators we were. Now I can’t seem to get a response from him to say what he is doing to help teachers like me remain in the profession. I don’t want to leave education but it’s hard to think of having to go through this every March.

Let’s think of the children. We all need to act now and speak up.

Darla O’
Why punish teachers for politicians’ fiscal irresponsibility?
Mission Viejo, California

I have worked in the Capistrano School District since 1994, first as a classified employee (for eight years) and then as a certificated, credentialed teacher (for eight years). I have received a pink slip almost every year since becoming a teacher. Last year was especially difficult. Our district gave RIF notices to about 400 teachers (not including temporary teachers). I was one of those teachers. During the summer, 200 of us were called back to work. Although we were all tenured teachers, we were all put on temporary, one-year contracts upon our return. As a result, all 200 of us will be out of a job in June.

To make matters worse, an additional 150 teachers were also given RIF notices this year.

This district has also told teachers there is no more money for classroom supplies. Therefore, the teachers (many of whom will not have a job after June) are spending their own money for classroom supplies. This is a tragedy. Teachers do not make that much money (compared to other professionals with an equivalent level of education).

To add insult to injury, our present board of trustees is imposing severe cuts to our salaries and making us take furlough days. They are also cutting our health benefits.

This chaos has got to end. Why are teachers being punished for the fiscal irresponsibility of politicians? If our government continues to cut from education, we will not be able to retain teachers or produce competitive students. A country that refuses to make education a priority cannot possibly remain a leader in any arena.

Linda F
Veteran teacher forfeited tenure to care for child, now faces foreclosure
Brisbane, California

I have been a teacher since 1989. For 14 years I had tenure in the Oakland Unified School District. In 1999 my daughter was born and I stayed home, which resulted in loss of tenure. I went back to work when she was six after I separated from my partner. I have had three jobs in three years in part, because I am highly paid (20 years’ experience and a Master’s degree). This year, I was unable to find a job even though work is generally available for a Spanish teacher like me. I have been on unemployment since July 2009 and my home is about to go into foreclosure. I have never in my life been out of work until now. I am credentialed and experienced, but I can’t find a job. I am so frustrated.

Nadia H
Why bail out business and not schools?
Los Banos, California

Last year, I was lucky enough to get moved to another school at least I still had a job. This year, I received a pink slip along with about 50 other teachers a lot, considering we are a small district.

I am now the only one working in my household. I support my Mom. My father passed away last year. It’s hard economic times for many people, but but we owe the children of this country a chance to get the education they deserve. Cutting teachers hurts them as much as it hurts us. If we bailed out business, isn’t it time to help our schools?

Jamie F
Lost her teaching job, may lose home as a result
Los Alamitos, California

 

I am a 5th grade teacher in the Cypress School District in California, where I have worked for the last five years. I recently received a pink slip and it looks like I will be laid off in June. I love my job. It is my passion. I simply cannot imagine waking up each morning without having a classroom full of students to brighten my day. I am absolutely heartbroken over the fact that I will no longer be a teacher. Not only will I be losing my job, but I may be losing my home as well. I just bought a house in October and I simply cannot afford to make the mortgage payments on unemployment. My husband is working, but one income is not enough. I don’t know if lawmakers realize this, but many teachers who will be getting laid off are not new to the profession. We have several years of teaching experience resulting in many of us buying homes. If we lose our jobs, many of our homes will go into foreclosure. This is not good for the economy. The loss of jobs means less revenue, more foreclosures, and more unemployment. Can California really afford not to help teachers?

Carl A
Generation of young teachers about to be eliminated
Glendale, California

I am a recently retired 5th grade teacher in Burbank. The story I want to tell, however, is about my daughter, Tara. She is a first grade teacher in Glendale who has just received a pink slip. Glendale believes it may have to lay off as many as 100 teachers for the next school year. Even though Tara has nine years of teaching experience, she only has four years in Glendale and just received permanent status this year. After teaching five years in the Los Angeles Unified School District, she was recruited by Glendale. Her job evaluations have always been exemplary and she loves teaching.

But just as she had her second child and planned to return full-time next fall, she is in jeopardy of losing her job, along with many other fine young teachers in Glendale. The reality in California, and across America, is that an entire generation of young teachers is about to be eliminated. Most will not return, either because they will find other employment or just because they are so discouraged by the education system, and by the public that allows this to happen. School principals I have talked to are also distraught about the loss of so many fine teachers. The public seems generally unaware of this pending education disaster.

Inge S
No response when we ask, ‘How big a cut must we take to save teaching jobs?’
Wheatland, California

 

In my district, 120 out of 511 received RIF notices this March, including me. The district wants to cut our pay by 4 percent, freeze step and column increases for two years, shorten the school year by five days, eliminate four professional development days and three ‘buy back’ days, and cut post-retirement benefits.

We ask, ‘How big a cut must we take to save teaching jobs?’ The response is, ‘We cannot commit to that.’  That’s no answer at all.

The newspapers and the community blame teachers for problems with education, for expecting too much pay, for wanting to be treated as professionals. And yet, we are given the most precious responsibility there is: We shape the future.

If teachers don’t advocate for our children, who will? I don’t see parents at board Meetings. I don’t see administrators standing up for children.

Manuel F
Score tests differently, save millions of dollars
Los Banos, California

 

I have taught music in California for 25 years. Funding for school programs is always a battle. Quality education costs a great deal in today’s economy, but inferior education costs even more. California is one of the richest regions in the world, but our spending per pupil is among the lowest and our cost of living among the highest in the nation!  Cuts to an already underfunded system will hurt this country terribly in the long run.

I teach in Central Valley, one of the poorest parts of the state. Our students are already at a disadvantage and education levels the playing field for them. When you cut education, you go back to the days when only the rich could afford to be educated. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

If you want to cut waste in education, look at the state testing programs. How much do we waste paying publishers millions to administer tests? The tests could be administered for pennies on the dollar if they were distributed via email to teachers and scored by Scantrons or similar equipment. The money thus saved could be used to keep enrichment programs alive.

Stop forcing schools to live their lives around tests. Let’s get back to individualizing student instruction for maximum advantage and achievement.

Stella K
Thought nightmare ride had ended, but it continues
Palmdale, California

Last year, more than 100 teachers from my district were slated for lay-off. Thanks to the recovery funds, every single person was brought back (except two who sought jobs in other districts). I was one of those who was brought back and hoped this nightmare ride had ended. I was wrong.

This year, once again teachers are slated for lay-off. The reason … the district has decided to restructure a program and reassign teachers who have not been in a regular classroom for many years (they now have teaching duties only a part of the day). These teachers can have any credential, so almost everyone in my department is being laid off.

All of us are very worried because the economy in California has not recovered. Finding another position will be difficult, if not impossible.

Joseph R
Quality of education is deteriorating due to lack of funding
Winchester, California

My beautiful wife and I are educators, and have three wonderful children in 2nd, 4th, and 7th grade. We monitor our children’s homework, encourage them to read every day, and permit them to watch TV on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Their grades are excellent but the quality of education they are receiving falls short of what it ought to be very little exposure to writing, no art, no music, and no computer science.

As educators, we know that since the implementation of No Child Left Behind the emphasis in education has been the State Test. We agree that there must be some form of measurement to track academic growth. But under the current guidelines, education begins to deteriorate when you add lack of funding.

In the last three years, we lost our art teacher and our computer teacher. Class size is expected to rise in K-3. My wife and I are scheduled to attend a hearing on Monday to see who, out of 54 teachers, will have a job next year. This is taking place right after the district and the union agreed to shorten the school year for the third year in a row in order to save money.

Education needs our country’s attention right now. If our children are expected to compete globally, then we need to invest accordingly. Politicians like to speak of a ’21st century education,’ but I see no one fundraising or lobbying to make it happen. Class size and educational programs like music, art, and computer science are all integral parts of education. We need everyone’s support (Republican and Democrat) to do right by education.

Kelly S
Teachers get pink clips, class size rises to 32
Woodland, California

I have been teaching in elementary public schools in California for 10 years. In 2008, I left the school district where I had worked for eight years to be closer to home and my two sons. I have worked for two years in my current district on a temporary contract. This year, the district has pink slipped even more teachers than last year while increasing class size to 32. My evaluations have always been excellent.

Maria N
Why are banks too important to fail, but not children and education?
Long Beach, California

I am an elementary school teacher in Paramount, California, and have received a layoff notice. Although this is my sixth year teaching, and the fourth in my district, I have been on temporary contracts each year due to budget concerns. Each year, I am basically laid off and then have to hope I am rehired. The financial instability has made it impossible for me to buy a home, which I very much want to do.

If I am laid off, I will be forced to file bankruptcy and consider a different profession. This breaks my heart because I love my job! I am also very good at it. I fear that I will be forced to sit at home, collecting unemployment benefits, and will let down the students I care so much about.

Government has decided that banks, car companies, and insurance companies are too important to fail, and therefore require a bailout. I can’t think of anything more important than our children and their education. Our leaders in Washington must help save teachers’ jobs.

Nancy M
Three paychecks away from poverty
Oceanside, California

A teacher since 1995, in 2000, I changed school districts. I have been teaching in Oceanside schools for 10 years and received a pink slip like all teachers in our district hired after September 1999. I am a single parent and may not be able to keep my home. My daughter, who was educated in our district, was among the top 20 in her graduating class. She went to a private university on scholarship, finished a five-year program in 3 1/2 years, and has a teaching credential. I have told her to not waste her time in our district, not even to sub. I am so sad because even though I raised her, it is the teachers of this district who educated her. I live with the knowledge that at this point, I am three paychecks away from poverty.

Tim H
Teacher layoffs would swell class size, result in ‘˜warehousing’ students
Oceanside, California

I received a preliminary layoff notice or ‘pink slip’ just over a month ago. I am in my 17th year of teaching and 10th year in my current school district. I put in many extra hours each day, including weekends, to improve my craft and ensure that my fourth grade students reach their potential as students and citizens. I am no different than the more than 23,000 teachers in California alone who are receiving pink slips among them is one of our district’s teachers of the year (an award I received over a decade ago while teaching in Norman, Oklahoma).

Morale in my school and district (Oceanside, California) is at an all time low. The thought of losing 200 teachers in our district to budget cuts is devastating. Classes at many grade levels are bursting at the seams already. Losing so teachers would drive class size at all grade levels to such extremes that students would merely be warehoused each school day. Little learning would take place.

In spite of all this, I will be spending much of this Sunday afternoon not at the beach here in southern California, but at my kitchen table, grading papers and making lesson plans for the week. Tomorrow, I will wake up at 5 a.m. and arrive in my classroom nearly three hours before my students to make final preparations for a day of teaching. It could be among the last 42 days I have the privilege of being a teacher.

Diana M
Teacher of the year gets pink slip her fourth in nine years
San Juan Capistrano, California

I have been teaching for nine years; this year marks the fourth time I am receiving a pink slip. I am passionate about teaching. Two years ago, I received a pink slip a few weeks after being named ‘teacher of the year” in my school. This year, the pink slip is especially frightening, as my husband’s income is down by about 35% due to the economy and the increase in outsourcing manufacturing (he sells textiles to the home furnishings industry).

Galen H
‘˜Only route is retirement and possibly filing for bankruptcy’
Corona, California

Teaching is my third career, after the U.S. Marines and retail sales/management. At age 50, I was encouraged to become a special ed teacher, an area in which there was a critical shortage. I took a series of student loans I am still repaying. Now with pay cuts, furlough days, increased taxes and other bills, for the first time I am falling behind in my financial obligation, ruining a 30-year record of perfect credit. In retirement, I will receive less of my Social Security monthly income due to the ‘windfall offset law.’

While I will not be laid off, I will have an increased case load of needy and sometimes violent-acting students, less aides, and less paycheck. I do not qualify for teacher loan forgiveness since my first student loan was in 1997, before the October 1998 effective date of the forgiveness law. I feel my only route is retirement and possibly filing for bankruptcy.

Teresa D
Fix this so I can worry about important things, like whether my students can read
Chico, California

 

In the past ten years, I have taught in six schools in four different districts. I have moved my place of residence three times, not across town, but from city to city. I have been temporary four times until the district HR person started throwing out my applications because she  misunderstood the No Child Left Behind legislation. I have been probationary several times and finally earned tenure this year, for whatever that is worth (I got “pinked” again). I have been hired as early as June and as late as October, and am the primary wage earner for my household. I’ve only taught the same thing twice in a row. I hold three teaching credentials spanning grades K-12 and a Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, and after ten years of this, I am angry.

Even if I hadn’t read some of the testimonials from fellow colleagues, or spoken to co-workers, I would know from my own experience that this is a state-wide problem spanning big cities to farm communities. In some districts I’ve been in, it is board policy to lay off 20% of the teachers each year. How can that be standard operating procedure?

So I am angry that I live in fear every year. I am angry that I teach out of a box because unpacking (yet again) is almost less than useless. I am angry that I am being cheated out of some of the rewards of teaching: building lasting relationships with students and co-workers, and becoming an expert in my field. I am angry that my employer can manipulate my status by cutting my insurance during summers in years when he/she didn’t hire me until October. I hate that districts don’t have to honor all my years of service (districts only have to honor up to five years). I am angry that I have now been asked to train my replacement (because I’m doing such a good job…).

Let’s fix this so I can worry about more important things, like whether or not my students can read.

Colorado

Linda B
Not renewed because she’s too qualified, earns too much
Littleton, Colorado

I am a nationally certified school psychologist and an NCLB highly qualified special education and social studies teacher. I have three years of satisfactory evaluations and excellent letters of reference. This was my last year of probation and I have not been renewed. I wasn’t told why but the only conclusion I can come to is financial. I earn about $10,000 more under the Denver Public Schools’ performance pay program than someone who does not have my credentials and experience. As difficult as my personal situation is, I am more concerned for the students and families I leave behind. In the past, I knew someone else would take my place. Now, the administration does not have to provide mental health support for the students and there may be no place to take.

Linda B
Special needs students are not receiving what they are entitled to
Denver, Colorado

The Department of Social Work and Psychological Services has had to cut personnel, which has decreased services to students at the same time their families’ financial and other stresses are increasing. Principals have complete control over how they spend the money and a lot have decided teachers are more important than nurses, social workers or school psychologists. Our students with special needs are not receiving the protection or services they are entitled to under federal laws.

Bruce B
Math teacher in alternative high school tells it like it is
Boulder, Colorado

I teach math in an alternative high school. I came from the computer industry to teach in this type of school because I believed I could help turn students’ lives around. And that is exactly what our school has been doing.

Our students come to us because their regular school kicked them out for behavioral, emotional, or psychological issues ‘¦ for never coming to school ‘¦ because they’re so into drugs their brains are fried ‘¦ because they’re pregnant or already Moms ‘¦ because their own parents are dysfunctional, missing, or homeless. Our students got lost in the shuffle in big schools and need a lot of one-on-one attention, especially in math. The majority of our students have failed math all their lives, yet kept getting promoted to the next level.

Last year, our math department was cut from 4 teachers to 3, 2 of whom are now being laid off. Their replacement is a technology teacher who has never taught or wanted to teach math.

A new Colorado law says the basis for judging our ‘effectiveness’ as teachers will be students’ test scores. Many of my students will have been in my classroom for only a couple of weeks before they take the test; many chronically truant kids we track down just to take the test. Yet if their test scores are not better than those of the previous year’s students every year, I could be ‘pink-slipped.’

I urge legislators who actually know something about education and not just from being a student to take a stand. Professional, dedicated, workaholic educators are the rule, not the exception. Please act to save teachers’ jobs our students’ educations and futures depend on it.

Bonnie H
Small school losing 1/3 of teachers
Westminster, Colorado

We are a small school based on the Middle College reform model.  Of 12 academic teachers, 4 have been furloughed. The students will suffer when we go from class sizes that promote achievement to class sizes that will promote success defined as controlled chaos. We will be losing our 5 day a week nurse, our 2 day a week psychologist, our budget specialist and two Assistant Principals. How can a school function without the key people who keep the wheels rolling????

Yvette C
Prove teaching foreign language is important fund it!
Denver, Colorado

I retired two years ago after 31 years of teaching French, Spanish and German. After retirement, I spent two years teaching middle schoolers these languages part-time.

My small part-time position is going to be cut. For me, it may not matter. For the students in this middle school, it will matter. A parent of one of my students told me that her daughter got in the International Baccalaureate program in a prestigious district in Colorado because she had Spanish in middle school. What is going to happen to all those other kids?

I have heard all the talk about how important it is for our kids to learn a new language. Let’s prove it.

Connecticut

Gini C
Classes average 25-29 students and climbing
Bridgeport, Connecticut

We have officially closed one school for the next school year. All its students will be crammed into another school where classes already average 25-29 students. English is not the first language of many of these students they would benefit from smaller classes where they could get the individual help they need.

There is talk of closing a second school and more talk about teachers taking five furlough days. While we have built new schools, we do not have the money to maintain them and now they are becoming overcrowded.

I work hard, but I am not a miracle worker. We need our elected officials to figure this out and give our children the benefit of an education at least as good as the one we had. It’s time to pay it forward.

D. K.
Is this any way to improve education for special needs students?
East Hampton, Connecticut

I have been teaching since 1982 and have worked in the public school system for 24 years. I have a bachelor’s degree in special education and early childhood education, and a master’s degree in elementary education. I love what I do, and I am good at it! I continue to have passion for my students and my profession. I love learning creative, new and improved research-based methods to help the students I work with do their best. I have been fortunate enough to win a celebration of excellence award from the state of Connecticut, as well as a few honorable mentions for this award. I have been trained to be a mentor, participated in many specialized training workshops, and then returned to my district and trained other teachers in what I have learned. I have played a variety of leadership roles during my teaching career.

I am presently considered a highly qualified teacher, but the state of Connecticut is considering regulations that could end my career as a special education teacher.

Under these regulations, special education teachers would be required to have a master’s degree in special education before they could begin teaching. If you only have a bachelor’s in special education, you will no longer be certified to teach special education regardless of your expertise/experience. The state of Connecticut does not want to grandfather-in special education teachers who have a bachelor’s degree in the field.

I am confused. Special education is an area of shortage. If the new requirements are imposed, thousands of experienced special education teachers/leaders might no longer be able to teach. Is this any way to improve education for special needs students?

Janice G
Cutting literacy instructors disastrous for students
Niantic, Connecticut

I have been employed as a special education teacher and a literacy teacher for several years in southeastern Connecticut. The school I have been teaching in has four part-time literacy teachers for students in grades K-5 all certified teachers, working in non-certified positions without benefits. Three of the four positions have been cut for next year. This is a district with a very high poverty where about 70 percent of the students are reading below grade level. It will be impossible to deliver reading instruction mandated by RTI after these positions are cut. As reading is the foundation for all other learning, these cuts will be disastrous for our students.

Lynn P
Cuts in special education teachers and staff will hurt all students
Seymour, Connecticut

The city of Shelton, Connecticut, currently employs 419 teachers. Due to zero funding for the second year in a row from our mayor, lack of funding coupled with soaring special education costs and a drastic reduction in grants, 87 teachers and over 40 support staff have received pink slips. This reduction-in-staff will increase class size and seriously impact the students who need extra help to be academically successful. Special education students will no longer receive support in science and social studies classes. Academic teachers will have to teach and manage multiple learners, undoubtedly leading to less content delivery.

After 10 years as a special education teacher nine in the Shelton school district I received a letter about my status in the next school year. It is possible that 15 out of 44 special education teachers will be “let go” at the end of this school year, regardless of tenure. While this is a disgrace, even worse is a system that tries to run eight schools and all necessary programs with only 29 special education teachers and very few support staff.

Our students deserve a good education! The United States will continue to fall further behind in education if these cuts do not stop!!!

Please help us help our students!

Delaware

William B
Cuts in music program will have a major impact on students
Milton, Delaware

A month ago, I was visited by our superintendent and personnel director. They had come to tell me that they had to let a music teacher go due to budget cuts. It wasn’t me, as I am at the top of our district’s RIF list, having taught for over 28 years. However, this cut forced me to choose between two jobs: splitting my time between the middle school where I currently work and the other middle school in our district, teaching band at both schools, or teaching general music in an elementary school.

I realized right away that this would have a major impact on my students. With the end of the school year approaching, students began to ask me about participating in jazz ensemble next year. I have had to give them the bad news that there will not be a jazz ensemble next year. I will also be forced to water down the quality of the music we play, as I will no longer be able to offer individual attention in a small group setting. Also, since I will spend my afternoons at a school that is 12 miles away from my current school, I will not be able to help students prepare solos for all-state or all-county band auditions, which I typically do either during the small group lesson time or after school.

Our district has a history of having a high quality music program. My elementary feeder provides me with upwards of 40 or 50 enthusiastic band students each year. We have garnered untold amounts of positive PR for the district over the years by playing at senior citizens’ centers, nursing homes, and the like. And we provide the students with a top quality music education.

I looked just several days ago at the three trophies that sit on the cabinet at the back of my room. These are trophies received by my performing groups at various festivals over the past few years. Two say “excellent” and one says “superior.”  I try to think that these decisions are not personal, but I can’t help but think, “This is the thanks I get.”

Kathy L
Last and only librarian in my district
Lewes, Delaware

If the other middle school librarian in my district had not retired May 13, I would have been handed a RIF notice on May 14. I am a National Board Certified Teacher, winner of the district technology award for the 2007-08 school year, and have written and brought in over $40,000 in grant money to my district. I am a certified Thinkfinity trainer, soon to be certified Smart Board trainer, author of two online courses that the department of education uses for professional development for teachers, facilitator for these courses, and a presenter at conferences sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Education and others. I am not saying these things to brag, but to point out that I am a highly qualified teacher librarian and I was almost pushed out the door. There is definitely a problem with the system! I am now pushing the high school librarian out the door as I become the last and only librarian in my district.

Horacio L
Every student is not college material (at least not yet)
Newark, Delaware

To function as a society, we need as many students in vocational tracks as we do in academic tracks. Everyone can still be all that they want to be, but only if they are fully prepared and can, in fact, do the required work. Let us stop pretending that all students are equipped to do everything offered in our school curriculum. Some will always be more capable than others in specific areas.

Schools should stop measuring success by tests based entirely on academic proficiency.  I once had a high-ranking student who had little common sense. For his senior thesis, he designed a wonderful, futuristic house powered by ‘green’ energy. But he forgot to include bathrooms.

Let us train and retain good teachers, train and retain a smaller number of non-meddling administrators, and redistribute students based on their interests and real-world evaluations. Students who are not suited to traditional high school should go to a trade/technical school or directly to college. Others could learn a specified job by serving as an apprentice to a master trainer/worker.

Every student is not college material (or at least not yet). We need to prepare students for other trades and configure schools in new ways that recognize this reality.

Florida

Toni W
I deplore the ignorance that allows art for poor kids to be cut
Davie, Florida

I am 63. I started teaching at 46, having just finished college after raising my son alone. I taught art for 16 years at the same school, to many students who didn’t speak English, have enough to eat, or have clean clothes. Most of my students were on free lunch programs.

Last year, when I was 62, with only 16 years in the system, I was told my job in art was being eliminated due to budget cuts. I became certified to teach kindergarten through 6th grade, and was placed in a 2nd grade class, thus keeping my job even though students at the school where I teach need art more than most do. Art teaches them how to express themselves. In an art class, they are not handicapped by lack of language skills, lack of money, or lack of home support. Success in art class empowers them, allowing them to gain confidence, and an understanding of other cultures. Art helps them learn math concepts in ways that the regular classroom cannot duplicate. They participate, they speak, and they grow.

Cutting out art for poor kids is a crime and all of us will be paying the price when these children fail to reach their potential. While I enjoy teaching 2nd grade, my considerable skill and training are being squandered on a job that MANY have trained for. I am a unique commodity, and while I am glad to have a job and a paycheck, I deplore the ignorance that allows art for poor kids to be cut.

We are fattening the wallets of test mongers and supervised by overpaid local politicos masquerading as educators. We are spending vast amounts of money on “technology” for the schools, when all we really need is common sense. Real teachers can do their jobs without fancy buildings, without the latest in technology, and definitely without having the students tested ad infinitum. Spend the education money on something real spend it on TEACHERS. Give us the materials we ask for, not hyped techno-baubles, and then let us do our jobs!

Jim B
Stop wasting money on scripted programs
Winter Haven, Florida

Well, the fear of losing my job became a reality and it is all based on test scores of an Inclusion grade-five class. I have been a teacher for 32 years and am horrified to see what is happening to education.

Much of what is happening is linked to economic times, yet the department of education and school board members continue to receive six-figure salaries and waste money on scripted programs like Learning Focus Strategies $4.5 million! No board member or department of education staff should have a salary higher than the highest paid teacher in the district/state.

Matt R
Feels lucky to have a job next year even though it pays $14,000 less
Hollywood, Florida

I am a teacher in Broward County who is about to be surplussed and subsequently laid off. I have five years of full-time teaching experience and a master’s degree in education. I am the head varsity basketball coach at my school and an assistant football coach. I am well liked by my students and peers. I do my job every day and I care about my students.

I am one of the lucky ones in the sense that I have been able to line up another job for next year. However, it is out of state and will come with a $14,000 reduction in pay. For someone who is paying off student loans and living paycheck to paycheck already, it will be a challenge to just get by. Yet I feel fortunate that my role as a coach has allowed me to find a teaching position for the upcoming year at all.

Lynda D
Six of us provided safety for 280 schools and we’re being cut
Sunrise, Florida

Recently, I was informed that my job as a Gang Prevention Coordinator would be cut.  The Gang Prevention Coordinator (my job) does much more than talk to students about staying out of gangs. We are in schools every day, helping students and staff.

Six of us provide safety for more than 280 schools almost 50 schools apiece. We talk to students in elementary, middle and high school about how to resolve conflicts with their words and not their fists. We are called when students go to the hospital after overdosing on over-the-counter cold medicine, when there are threats of guns on campus or rumors of gang fights at football games. We drive to schools in neighborhoods that many people would not even drive through, in our own cars, unarmed, and walk the halls and man the bus loops at dismissal.

After Hurricane Wilma, we inspected the campuses of the schools that we could get to and conducted site safety assessments. The few gas stations that were open had long lines and little gas, yet we drove our own cars through sometimes dangerous roads to assess potential dangers in and around the campuses, and to determine the feasibility of opening schools.

During the recent student walk-outs, the Gang Prevention Coordinators helped schools maintain order and safety. We met with distraught students and parents after the tragic shooting at Dillard High School and the severe beating of a middle school student in Deerfield Beach.

Study after study has demonstrated that students who do not feel safe will not learn. In light of recent incidents at our Broward County public schools, how can anyone consider cutting the people who prevent school violence?

Jim B
Focus on tests threatens to destroy students’ lives and teachers’ careers
Winter Haven, Florida

 

I am a fifth grade Inclusion teacher in Florida. I have 31 years of teaching experience and my job is threatened. I have great students, but many of them cannot pass the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). For that reason alone, their lives will be destroyed and so will my career.

The state wants to deny teachers recertification if their students do poorly on the FCAT. Yet the state has already decided to phase out the FCAT in 2014 because it is archaic and full of mistakes. Our governor and state legislators should take the 10th grade FCAT. If they do not pass it, they should forfeit their jobs.

Help us. Teachers are the good people who care about the students of this nation!

Barbara W
It’s just not right
Pinellas Park, Florida

I have worked as a paraprofessional in Title I schools for almost 32 years. Two weeks ago, my principal told me that my job will be eliminated next year because there isn’t enough money in next year’s Title 1 budget to fund it. Two other paraprofessionals in my school were told that their jobs are gone next year as well. Our replacements will be paid by the hour and receive no benefits, so their salaries are lower. They will have to be trained in what has been second nature to us for years.

We are heartbroken to leave our teachers, our students and our school home. It has been wonderful to watch our students as they grow from kindergarten to 5th grade. Now, we are being thrown out because we cost too much. It’s just not right.

Betty H
Support teachers, hold students and their parents accountable
Freeport, Florida

I am a veteran teacher in my 16th year with a B.A. in English and an M.A. in secondary education. Eleven of my teaching years were in Kentucky, where I taught for 10 years in the same city and had tenure at a national Blue Ribbon School. Since moving to Florida in 2002, I have gotten a ‘pink slip’ every year and have taught in a different school every year.

It is discouraging to spend my entire summer looking for a position. Every year, I have to be a ‘brand new teacher’ and re-invent myself. Legislators and politicians need support teachers, and make students and their parents more accountable for student performance.

Georgia

Cleopatra B
Lack of support for NBCTs has left a bitter taste
Jonesboro, Georgia

Teachers at my school are very disappointed and seriously concerned about whether government is committed to offering quality education to our children. We were asked to enhance our teaching skills by becoming National Board Certified Teachers. We were told we would be rewarded with 10% of our salary. Now, this promise has been broken.

Teachers like me are committed to ensuring that they are highly qualified with the skills necessary to prepare students to become lifelong learners. Given the opportunity, we would have willingly enhanced our teaching practices. But a promise is a promise.

I completed my NBCT and my doctorate degree simultaneously, which meant depriving my family of many hours of family time. I did so to ensure that I equipped myself with teaching and classroom management skills to meet the needs of each student in my class. Now, my efforts are overshadowed by the emphasis on merit pay. The lack of support for NBCTs has left a bitter taste in the mouths of potential NBCTS and all teachers.

Hero Not Zero
Doesn’t take a financial wizard to solve school budget problems
Lithonia, Georgia

Everyone in my school district is going to get a 5% pay cut. For many, that is a pay cut of between $3,000 and $7,000 a year. At the same time, the district has purchased a completely unnecessary reading series from Houghton Mifflin for $12.5 million when what we have would be fine for at least another 2-3 years minimum. Four teachers from my school are going to Las Vegas this summer for professional development, all expenses paid by my school. My principal has $20,000 in an account for a $30,000 electronic sign for the front of the school. I have a brand new Smart Board in my classroom, installed the last month of the school year!

This type of sickening behavior is taking place all over America. It does not take a financial wizard to figure out how to solve school budget problems in a bad economy.

Tammy D
How will losing so many teachers affect our nation?
Powder Springs, Georgia

On Tuesday of this week, along with 274 other teachers, I found I no longer have a job. I worked as a paraprofessional in special education while I went to school to get my degree. After seven years of working full time and going to school, I am a teacher. I have been teaching math for two years and it is my passion.

I was a stay-at-home mom until my youngest went to middle school so I’m much older than most new teachers. I’m in education because it is my true calling and heart’s desire. I want my students to be excited about learning. But how can our schools function with so many teachers gone? How will it affect our nation?

Martitia W
My little salary couldn’t be hurting the budget
Quitman, Georgia

I have been employed as a bookkeeper for 21 years by the Brooks County Board of Education. On May 5, I was told there are not enough funds to hire me back next year! I work in an elementary school and have been very involved with the students and teachers there. I went online to see the salaries of others whose jobs are not in jeopardy and learned that the people who made this decision make anywhere from $102,000 to $123,000 per year. My little salary couldn’t be hurting the budget nearly as much as theirs.

Anise A
Teacher laid off without explanation
Gwinnett County, Georgia

I have been teaching for the past 16 years. I moved to Georgia four years ago from Chicago.  We thought we would have a better life. We decided to live in Gwinnett County because we were told that in Gwinnett, they care about their students, community, support staff, and teachers. As we have come to learn, that is not true at all.

While teaching in Gwinnett County, I have never had any sort of bad rating. I know I do my job as a teacher and I love what I do for my students. I was still told that I would not be receiving a contract for the upcoming school year, 2010-2011, with no reason given. I just went back to school in which I earned my leadership degree and now look at me! I have no job, a new house, a family, and a student loan. I hope someone will fight for us to keep our jobs.

Zelda G
Layoffs leave special education departments understaffed
Calhoun, Georgia

Over 140 teachers in Bartow County received pink slips on Thursday. In two schools, I know that three and four special education teachers were eliminated. What is going to happen to the children served by understaffed special education departments? I thought that funding came from IDEA (at least partially). How do teachers find out ‘where the money goes?’

Jamine T
Taking educators out of the classroom like taking a bottle from a baby
Albany, Georgia

Just thinking about teachers being laid off makes me sick to my stomach. To the children in our society, teachers are more than just teachers. In today’s society, they play an important part in the upbringing of our kids. The teaching profession is not about money. It is about the kids and the difference we as educators make in their lives. Like parents, we educators shape the lives of our kids. We teach them how to survive and cope with this changing society.

Act on whatever bill is out there to save the jobs of teachers needs as soon as possible. Taking educators out of the classroom is like taking a bottle from a baby.

Lisa H
Educators’ job losses reverberate nationwide
Marietta, Georgia

When I earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Emory University with a 4.0 GPA, I never dreamed that after four years of teaching experience with outstanding evaluations that I would be nervously waiting to find out if I had a job for the following year.

I have already begun applying for teaching positions in private schools, but those are also few and far between. It is likely that I will soon join the masses in need of unemployment benefits. I will have to withdraw my daughter from preschool, and my husband’s salary alone will not be able to cover our mortgage. My job loss will lead to a long chain of negative economic effects. With hundreds of thousands of educators losing their jobs, the economy will suffer nationwide.

I sincerely hope that our senators and representatives will take action to save as many educators’ jobs as possible.

Michael S
Focus on preparing students to become engineers
Ashburn, Georgia

I am a middle-aged black man and a newly highly qualified biology teacher at the high school level. This is my second year in the Tift County school system. At the beginning of every academic year, we have a faculty meeting to discuss the school’s and the students’ performance the previous year. Black children are at the bottom of the learning curve, not because of any learning deficiency but because their teachers lack trust and know-how. These students need my support and the support of teachers like me. Engineering graduates should be a topic of concern and a focus of our education system. Please help me help my students.

Hawaii

Nora O
Students lose 20 days of school, music, library, and more
Honolulu, Hawaii

I was a music teacher for elementary schools in Honolulu, for 20 years. This past year, the music position was cut because our school could not afford the position. Luckily, I still have a job because I was certified in elementary education as well as in music.

I still have a job teaching 4th grade, but the whole school no longer has the benefit of having music. We also have no librarian, a half-time counselor, and only a part-time physical education teacher. All of these were previously full-time positions. We were all very busy and stayed at work late daily in years past, so the burden has now fallen on the already-busy faculty and administration at our school.

We have had to walk to the nearby public library to borrow books and for instruction. In addition, there were two days per month of teacher furloughs. This year we had 163 days of school, compared to the usual (approximately) 180 days. When students are ill, then you can subtract a few more days off 163 days. You can see that budget cuts have drastically changed the quality of classroom time and the quantity of time we get to spend with our students.

Beverly D
Cutting special education now will be more costly in the long run
Waipahi, Hawaii

I work in a Title One school that has a medical unit. Last year, all the students who were not medically needy were put into inclusion. Many of them did not belong in full-time inclusion; some prospered from it. The problem is that not as much special education time and staff are allocated for students placed in inclusion next year (2010-11). Positions will be cut and general education teachers will have to pick up some of the slack. If a student could not learn in general education classes before the referral to special education, how will s/he succeed in the same setting without specialized help?

This year, I worked intensively with all the students in class and also focused on raising the skills of the special education students. Some made tremendous improvements in reading and comprehension, but I fear that will not continue if special education teachers are given more students and less support staff.

I am a certified teacher who was displaced due to not having tenure until after the first day of the next school year. It will hurt me financially, but it will hurt the students’ education and hopes of succeeding more.

Special education students are most likely to drop out of school and often enter our penal system. In the long run, it costs more to deal with these students as adults than to work with them now and give them tools to be productive in our society instead of a drain on it.

Idaho

Maureen V
No summer school, salaries cut by 5%, 10 furlough days
Star, Idaho

There are two aides who have had their jobs cut at my school. There is no summer school offered this summer. There will be no NCLB before or after school remediation next year. My district has cut our salaries by 5% for next year. There will be 10 furlough days, and school will let out in mid-May next year. We no longer receive supply money from our state. Our district supplies the minimum and I predict what we receive will not last the school year.

I have postponed even thinking about retirement and I know younger teachers who are considering their career options. There is a state of emergency in my state, as in many states. I can and will scrimp, cut corners, and continue to do the magic. But my salary woes are nothing compared to the great disservice American politics is doing to American public school students. The foundation is eroding. I think often about the parable about not building your house on a sandy foundation. American schools will be operating next year based on a sandy foundation.

Clyde T
Feel like I am being punished for additional talents and abilities
Idaho Falls, Idaho

Over the past several years, I have been working another professional job after school. The other professional position is part-time during the school year and can become full-time during the summer months. I would not have sought another job outside the school district had it not been necessary in order for my wife and I to get out from under our college loan debts. Because of the payments on those loans, we struggle financially when other people with our joint income might not.

Everyone in our rural school district will experience a pay cut in the next school year. Mine will be about $4,000.

I was called into the superintendent’s office last spring and told I was being reassigned to a position in my district that is out of my chosen profession, school counselor. I have enough years so that I can keep my job with the district. But because I have additional endorsements on my certification and most newer people in my profession do not, I (and a colleague who has worked for the district for 26 years!) are being reassigned to keep newer people employed.

Although the superintendent emphasized that this is a way to preserve the employment of newer folks, it feels like a punishment to have my profession taken away. It makes me want to somehow ditch my other endorsements (if that were possible) just to keep doing that which I have enjoyed for the past 16 years. I feel like I am being punished for having additional talents and abilities.

Now I will be a classroom teacher instead of a school counselor at least until the economy improves sufficiently and there is a counselor position open in the district.

So many people tell me, “Well, at least you have a job.” That is, of course, very true. I am actually happy to still have a job. But a change of professions is not something that is easy to just take and enjoy when it is not what I wanted to do. This is a drastic, life-changing event.

Besides all of this, our school district continues to grow in population. Our 4th and 5th grade classes already have 30 to 35 students. I will be teaching 5th grade next year and who knows how many students I will have.

Jeff A
Male role models can’t afford to work in the education system
Rigby, Idaho

I am a first year high school teacher. I am just out of college with a large amount of debt hanging over my head. I pay my wife’s student loans and my own. I am hoping to make it five years in my district so that I qualify for the teacher loan forgiveness program. I also received a grant, but if I don’t keep my job for five years it will turn into debt with interest from inception.

As a new hire, I planned to be here at least five years, if not forever. I bought a modest house and started to settle into the community. I have two kids and another on the way. Unfortunately, I may not make it past the first year.

It doesn’t make sense to me that our system of education does not pay a living wage. I live a modest lifestyle and am very frugal with my money. I use everything I have for my kids in school and my girls at home. I coach three sports and teach science. I gladly accept every responsibility assigned to me. Now, I find out that due to budget cuts, I may not have enough to pay my monthly bills. I find out that my health insurance will cost more.

Something is wrong with our country when male role models can’t work in the education system because they can’t afford to feed their families. If I can’t live on my salary, then I will go back to school to enter a new profession. I don’t want to, but that is the choice I will have to make.

Illinois

Rachel B
Dreadful to eliminate physical education with so much obesity
Pontiac, Illinois

I have taught elementary physical education for over 30 years and helped negotiate a 4-year retirement incentive package with my district. With 2 years left until retirement, my position was eliminated and I was riffed. Students who had been receiving four 30-minute periods of physical education each week will have very little PE next year.

Illinois actually requires daily physical education classes. With the high incidence of childhood obesity, it is truly dreadful that this is happening to these young people, not to mention my disappointment in being unable to finish the career I started in 1975.

I have and will always stand for my beliefs, but that means action. I am in action. Please join the effort to regain the priority of a well-balanced education for our youth.

Mary P
The halls of our district will no longer ring with the sound of music
Woodstock, Illinois

Since November 2009, I have been living with the fact that the school district in which I teach needed to cut $5.4 million out of the budget for the 2010-11 school year. This meant cutting the art, music, learning center and physical education departments. The district is also increasing class size to 34-36 students per class.

I am a music educator and I am not certified to teach in another area. I have 22 years teaching experience and I am not sure that I will be able to find another teaching position. I have been in my current district for 17 years. My district required all teachers to get a master’s degree within 8 years of being employed or your salary would be frozen. I’m too expensive for another district to hire, yet I’m not done teaching music to children.

Art, music and physical education will now be taught by the classroom teacher. Most classroom teachers feel comfortable teaching art and physical education, but when it comes to music they are at a loss. I know that those of us who teach music have been training most of our lives. This subject is not something that can be learned overnight music teachers require years of training, just like our Olympic athletes.

Yes, I’m passionate about what I do. I’ve been singing since I was 3 years old. The amount of money my parents spent on my formal training since the age of 7 must be measured in the intrinsic feelings that come about through making music, not in dollars and cents.

I’m sad that the students of this district will no longer be able to make music. But I have been going to work every day, putting a smile on my face so that I don’t let my students down. They deserve the best possible music education while I’m here, because I know that they won’t get it next year.

I am down to the last two weeks of school and making music with my students. Nothing brings more joy to my heart than the sound of children singing and making music. The halls of my district will no longer have the sound of children singing; they will be silent for years.

Cheryl G
Stop putting education last on the list
Marion, Illinios

I am a 13-year veteran who moved to teaching middle school science this year. This makes me a “new” teacher in the school where I’m teaching.

People are being moved around so the teachers who had the pre-K positions being cut in our district can stay within the district. This means that someone at the elementary level who happens to have a middle school endorsement is going to replace me. The unfortunate part is that this is going to put teachers in positions that they don’t want, teaching kids at an age level they are not comfortable with.

This is definitely not what is best for our students. It is my hope that our state comes up with some way to fund pre-K so that teachers can remain in the grades they are comfortable teaching and others don’t have to lose their jobs at all. Education in this country has to stop being put last on the list.

Jeri S
Science teacher appalled by the state of education today
Wonder Lake, Illinois

I am a tenured science teacher with 10 years experience in my district. I was downsized to a half-time position this year due to cutbacks. Last year, 7th graders were divided into three classes because so many students had learning issues and other developmental needs. This year, 7th graders have been lumped into two classes of over 30. I was given an extra class with over 40% of the students requiring Individualized Education Programs as a way to fill their science needs and relieve some of the classroom pressure from the other science teacher. Other teachers with less experience, without tenure, were retained in the district while two of us with tenure, more experience, and multiple endorsements were cut to half-time.

What is happening in education today is not only wrong for our students, it is wrong for our teachers. Because of budget cuts, other districts are offering part-time jobs for full-time positions in order to avoid paying teacher benefits. I come from a family of proud and good teachers, and I am appalled at the state of education today. I live in a community that supports a world-class water ski team, but cannot provide paper and pencils to its students or employ its teachers full-time. I wonder what the world will look like 10 or 15 years from now with adults who cannot read beyond third-grade level or think for themselves.

Who would even consider teaching at this point, if they really knew what awaits them in this profession? I have worked in many other professions and came to teaching because I was eager to share knowledge about the real world with my students. While teaching in cross-curricular ways raises students’ test scores, pressure to teach to the standardized tests makes that impossible. Students are underserved and poorly prepared to meet the challenges that await them in the lives they will face after high school. I think legislators who have never taught should spend a week in a classroom in their district and learn how difficult teaching can be these days, even for dedicated teachers who are truly attempting to make education an exciting and worthwhile experience.

Fran A
Children are losing opportunities with budget cuts
Riverside, Illinois

My daughter lost her job teaching high school art when her school cut the entire art, foreign language and business departments. Her school lowered its graduation standards from 24 to 20 credits so that they no longer have to offer as many electives. While this is unfortunate for all students, it is especially devastating for one of her students who is autistic. In an end-of-the-year staffing meeting, this student’s parents, social worker and psychologist all noted how her first year in art class had transformed and motivated her, helped her become more social, and taught her how to think inferentially for the first time. Although the recommendation from the staff was to have this student continue with art next year, she will not have that opportunity. It is unconscionable.

Dee M
I am a teacher who teaches the whole child
Schaumburg, Illinois

It would be so much easier if education was just about 35 students sitting in chairs, listening intently as the teacher delivered her important, academic lessons. In a good scenario, the bell rings and students return to their homes, where they are warmly welcomed by loving parents who continue to support academic learning by assisting with homework and encouraging dialogue to promote communication skills. A small minority of my students live in this world.

I am a teacher. I am here to teach my students academics, but I can’t continue the lesson if Johnny is playing in his desk, Jimmy is still crying from being left out at lunch, Sam is whispering and passing a note to Susie, and Elly has a headache and has applied an ice pack from the nurse. These are everyday, all day situations that arise during lessons in every classroom. This is where the teacher teaches the WHOLE child through academic, emotional and social skills.

Here are REAL LIFE situations from my students this year.

Boy B, at age 8, was the caregiver of his drug-addicted Mom, infant brother and 6 year old sister. He begged the authorities to continue to allow him to help his family stay together. Each child was placed in a foster home he and his sister in one separate from the younger brother. After 8 months, his foster Mom explained that she could keep his sister, but Boy B had too many problems for her. Boy B was sent to a mental hospital for 4 months after threatening his foster Mom. He was placed in a group home and came to my room with 24 students. He is angry, argumentative, sad, and in great need of trust from everyone in my class. Each day, every hour, there are situations to redirect. Now summer comes and I am working with the district to find a way to continue to work with Boy B. My hope is that next year, as I move up with my class from 3rd to 4th grade, Boy B will have more trust in me and the class, and be able to focus more on academics.

Two more students that I know of have parents in jail. They often express sadness and emotional needs when journaling. Another student returned one day in May and informed me she had been up all night with her brother, who had been arrested; their Mom called the police when he and his friends took drugs and became violent.

I am a teacher who teaches the whole child. Academic achievement alone will not create success in life. Classes of 35 will not create successful environments to develop successful human beings. Please don’t fail our children.

Joanne M
Worried about effects of cost-cutting on students
Buffalo Grove, Illinois

As our student population has exploded at Harper College, we have employed cost-cutting measures since we did not receive promised monies from the state in a timely manner.

This has made it impossible to hire additional counselors to handle the heavier loads.  Our population has increased 8% or more every year for the last three years. Yet we have the same number of counselors and one full-time job was cut back to part-time.

I worry that we cannot give the students what they need as we jam in extra appointments wherever we can and feel pressure to work faster. I worry that we are not giving all their questions and concerns get the full treatment they deserve.

Elizabeth H
Half my current salary is not a living wage
Steger, Illinois

I am a music teacher in the south suburbs of Chicago, in my 8th year of teaching, and the single mother of a two-year-old. In April, I was informed that my position would be cut in half with no possibility of being hired on a full-time basis next year. I am lucky in that I still have a job for next year, but half my current salary is not a living wage in fact, it puts me close to the poverty level. To avoid incurring major debt, I will likely have to rely on my family as well government resources.

I truly love my job and feel blessed that I am able to teach children about music, which I love so much. At the same time, I wonder whether I will be able to continue in this profession if circumstances don’t improve. I can only hope that resources will be found to save many of the teaching jobs lost this year!

Rosemary K
Ode to fellow teachers who have been laid off
Schaumburg, Illinois

I have been in the teaching profession since 1979. There have been over 700 teachers riffed from my district, so I am supporting my fellow teachers. I will address this to about 20 of them who I personally and professionally encountered this year.

I am sorry that you gave up your six-figure salary in a business career and then went back to school get your master’s degree in teaching giving up sleep, weekday evenings, and weekends only to be treated this way. I want you to know that your colleagues appreciate and recognize the expertise, dedication, sacrifices and heart that you brought to the teaching profession.

I am grateful for all the hours you dedicated over the last 4-6 years to differentiating instruction for students who didn’t get it, developing methodologies to help all students reach their maximum potential, leading those who didn’t seem care to care, and spending thousands of dollars of your own money to buy literacy materials for students at specific grade levels.

I witnessed students who never responded before flourishing emotionally and academically under your care and guidance. I witnessed the devastation you felt when you were told you were bumped from your grade level, then your building, and finally the entire district. As a fellow professional, I regret that we are losing your gifts and talents. Parents and students will desperately miss you as well.

You deserve accolades and rewards not this. You have positively and everlastingly touched children’s lives. I am sorry to see our children suffer this devastating loss.

Angie B
One librarian for two middle schools with 2,100 students
Belvidere, Illinois

I have been an educator for 18 years with the last 8 years as a librarian at the middle school level. Because of cutbacks in our district, next year I will be the librarian for two middle schools with a total of 2,100 students. I will be in each school half-time and won’t see some classes until the middle of October I won’t be in the building when they are scheduled to come to the library before then.

Danielle H
It is the students I am worried about, not myself
Naperville, Illinois

As the end of the school year approaches, I’ve started reflecting on all the wonderful things I have done during my first year teaching:

I have accomplished a personal goal to be a teacher, which I have had since I was in first grade. I have taught in the district I was educated in, the one I firmly believe in. I have met the diverse social, emotional, and academic needs of 23 third graders. I have built relationships with students and faculty members that I will always cherish. I have received only positive feedback and evaluations from co-workers, my principal, and parents. I have woken up with a smile every day, eager to do whatever it takes to teach a child effectively. I have spent an average of 60 hours a week in my classroom, loving every minute of it. I have witnessed students learning math, science, reading, writing, and social science. I have comforted students who were insecure, or didn’t believe in themselves like I believe in them. I have given students all the time and effort they needed, whether they knew it or not. I have completed a third of my master’s in education to be the best that I can be as a teacher.

I am also thinking about all of the things I will not be able to do next year as a result of being non-renewed:

I will not be able to help students set and reach their goals. I will not be able implement all the ideas I have researched and learned about the in past year that could help students be even more successful. I will not be able to continue my dream and lifelong goal of being a teacher. I will not be there to high-five students when they persist or accomplish something new. I will not be able to support students when they are struggling. I will not be able to encourage students to go above and beyond to reach their full potential. I will not be able to make a difference in students’ lives, at least in a classroom setting.

As an adult, I can deal with all the things I will not be able to do next year. I know every other teacher being pink-slipped or dismissed will be strong enough to deal with it as well. My biggest fear is that the students won’t be able to. It is the students I am worried about, not myself. How are we going to save our students from the effects of all of these cuts?

Debra K
No way to address the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes
Cary, Illinois

I am an elementary physical educator. Despite the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes, all the elementary physical education specialists in my district got pink slips, as did the music and art specialists. This is happening all over Illinois. Most of us will not find jobs we have experience and master’s degrees and districts will probably hire teachers who are less expensive. The future of our children is at stake.

Barb D
When budget time comes, teachers and students are just numbers
Bradley, Illinois

I am one of those “second career” teachers and I have only taught for 5 years. This will be the first time that I will actually be going back to the same district! Initially, I was able to get a full-time job at the alternative school where I had worked as an aide for two years prior. Things were fine until I was RIFed. Logically, you know it is because of money. Emotionally, you feel like a failure.

After that, I was unable to find a full-time job so I substitute taught, which is definitely hard to budget your finances by. I finally took a job that was part-time Mon-Friday. I earned $16,000 for teaching four special education classes and had no resources. They got a good bargain with me.

I am now teaching in Momence and I really love my job. I have realized that I can be the best teacher ever, but when budget time comes I am just a number and my students are just numbers. The district does whatever it can to save the district and keep it running even if it limps along because of lack of funds. The state of Illinois is putting all our students at an extreme disadvantage.

Elissa B
I would have been tenured the first day of next year
Aurora, Illinois

Even as a child, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but life threw me several curves. I returned to college at the age of 48 and graduated with my degree and teaching certification in 2003, when I was putting my two children through college and struggling with tuition payments and loans. I worked as a substitute and teaching assistant for almost three years before I was hired to teach.

On March 22, the board of education for my district voted to release 145 teachers. I am one of them and would have been tenured the first day of next year. I am deeply saddened that I will no longer be a part of preparing young students succeed in higher levels of education and society.

Sandra S
Advanced candidate for National Board Certification received pink slip
Carol Stream, Illinois

I have been teaching 10 years.  I am an advanced candidate for National Board Certification in Literacy.  I have a Master’s Degree plus 40+ hours of graduate credits in literacy, math, and technology.  I am a member of my school’s Response to Intervention leadership team, a member of my district’s writing curriculum and report card committees, and more.

Teaching is my passion.  I work from 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM in my school and then take work home…for my kids! I love to teach. I have been Rif’d (pink slipped) ‘“ myself and 731 other teachers.  Why? Because of money

The state is in financial ruin and owes all districts money, forcing huge layoffs.  The state is putting the future of all students at grave risk.   I am not overpaid.  I make less money than I did when I worked in the business world. But, it’s my passion.

Please look at the work of my students:  www.multiageclassroom.blogspot.com.  That’s what I do.  But it ends June 4.  Please support our schools……save our schools.  We can’t have 732 outstanding teachers added to the unemployment lines.

Kimberly A
‘Solutions’ are insulting
Addison, Illinois

I lost my position teaching fourth grade last year. I was not fortunate enough to find a new position this year, but in light of the situations across the country I would be losing that job anyway.

I hold a master’s degree and know that with no money a school district can’t afford to hire me. I am going to work for a company that sells craft supplies. They are willing to pay me slighty more than I was making as a teacher last year – even in a poor economy. I am giving up my dream job for now. I still consider it my dream job – even with all that is happening and has happened to me.  Everyone knows teachers are not in it for the money, but we have to eat and fuel a car to get to the job. Some of the proposed “solutions” I’m hearing as a substitute are just plain offensive ‘“ proposals such as a three-year pay freeze, or raising health insurance rates to something like $1000 a month.

I’m glad my personal storm has passed for now.  I’m very sad for kids.  This is a situation that will affect them for life. Some of the kids I’ve taught are one bad school year away from falling apart completely. I know there is suffering in other countries, but I think we have made a huge mess of our own by not maintaining the high expectations that educators work hard to deliver every day.

Pamela B
Help us keep our libraries open
Kankakee, Illinois

I am a full-time librarian at King Middle School in Kankakee, Illinois. Last week, I was told that my library job for next year has been cut due to lack of funding (Title 1).

My school’s library supports over 550 students and 30 teachers and aides. I have five to six classes a day, plus individual students who use the library and talk authors, books and stories with me. Next year, our library of 6,000 books will lie dormant or be used with no controls. Many of those books will be lost or damaged, which is criminal in my mind. I worry about the care and maintenance of this library and all the other closed libraries in our school district. Please help us keep our libraries open.

Dayna C
First-year teacher and master’s student pleads for funding
South Holland, Illinois

I not only teach my students, but mentor them. They have a lot of baggage on board and it’s my job to help them sift through it so that they can learn and be successful in life. I’ve already been laid off [March 2010] and it has been devastating. My students started a petition to save my job. But, as we all know, the only thing that can save my job is funding.

Mona T
School social worker asks: How can this be happening?
Glencoe, Illinois

I am an Illinois school social worker with 10+ years of experience in schools and another 15+ in other areas of clinical social work. I am expecting to receive a RIF letter, along with dozens of other educators some tenured, some not despite superior recommendations from my supervisors. In large part, the cuts are due to unprecedented budget deficits. The result will be a loss of appropriate educational opportunities for students, a decrease in quality services, larger classes, and an escalation of the recession for thousands of educators across the state and country.

How can this be happening? If we can afford Wall Street bailouts and health insurance coverage for all, surely we can guarantee an appropriate, quality education for all our children. Immediate action is needed to prevent a catastrophe.

Big M
Don’t people in Congress have children themselves?
Matteson, Illinois

I have wanted to become a teacher since I was about eight or nine years old. I attended college in the field of regular education. I had awesome instructors who guided me and taught me well, one in particular whose name was Mrs. Jones. One day, as she observed me in a classroom setting, she told me I had a special gift with children. Then, she told me I was very much needed in the field of special education.

After 20+ years in the special education field, I still have joy and a desire to teach my students. It gets very difficult at times. Sometimes, I just want to give up and change my field. Then, students I once taught come back and tell me I made a difference in their lives. What joy I experienced when a student said to me, ‘I thought you were mean, but now I know you really cared about me not just as my teacher, but as a person.’

I thank GOD for such blessings. They let me know I chose the right career. It is an honor to be able to reach children, to see them come into your classroom one way and leave a whole and better human being.

It hurts my heart to see people in Congress not care about our children. It hurts my heart to see the unfair treatment of good and dedicated teachers who care about making a difference in children’s lives. Why can’t the people in Congress understand that we need committed teachers for children with special needs?  Don’t they have children themselves?

Kara G
Educating our children should be our nation’s top priority
Millstadt, Illinois

I am a literacy assistant in a school district in Illinois. I have my B.S. in education and am currently pursuing my master’s degree. I have a love for children and for education. I am a passionate believer that education is the most important pursuit in our lives.

I have been given a dismissal notice this year, and my administration cannot tell me if I will have a job next year. As a young adult still living at home, facing student loan payments and health insurance premiums, this is a daunting reality.

Illinois’ budget is in shambles and I am being personally punished for the mishandling of funds by state politicians. Why should I be punished for their misguided budget? More important, why should OUR CHILDREN be punished? We are trying to educate them to be responsible, civic-minded members of society. Our leaders’ inaction and blatant attempts at bluffing their way through a budget are disheartening and disgusting.

I hope that as a country, we recognize that educating our children should be our nation’s top priority. We must do right by our children.

Karen S
Our future is at risk
Antioch, Illinois

I have already been laid off. The district where I am currently working has laid off 12 support staff (what I am) and teachers. I am scared for the students. They are going to have bigger classes, materials that are not up to date, and less help. This is a shame. Today’s young people are our future. Don’t let this happen. Our children’s future and our nation’s future are at risk. HELP!!!!

Misty P
Layoffs worry students, leave teachers disheartened
Bethalto, Illinois

I graduated college in the fall of 2006 and started subbing the next spring. During the 2007-08 school year I had three long-term substitute positions before obtaining my current third grade teaching position. So this is my second year teaching. I worked hard to get where I am today. I love teaching and am good at my profession.

I have been laid off my last day will be May 21, 2010. Yet, every day I come to school and do what I know is the right thing to do: teach my students. Students ask if I am being fired. They worry about their teachers and worry about their schools.

We are told we are being let go not because of our performance, but because our state does not have the money to pay us. I am saddened and my heart is broken to know that after putting myself through college and earning the career I love so much, this is the way it is going to end. What are we supposed to do now? Are we supposed to go back to college and start a new profession?

Several teachers are going to be drawing unemployment when they should be getting paid to do what they do best. Our students will not be getting the best education possible due to overcrowded classrooms and the elimination of programs. We need to focus on what is most important: our children. They will be growing into our future leaders and need a solid education.

Sara D
Art matters!
Harrisburg, Illinois

I am a tenured elementary (grades 3-5) visual art teacher with about 475 students a week. I have been RIF-ed because of the lack of state funding and will be forced to sub, go back to school to further my certification, take a job outside of education, and/or collect unemployment.

I can handle my future possibilities but my students will suffer. As I said in a letter explaining to parents why studying art is important, ‘We are surrounded by images whether they are on television, in videos, in magazines, in newspapers, on billboards, or in textbooks. Children need to know how to judge and act on the information they receive from these images. Students in my class discover how to think critically about what they see. Exploring art from various artists and cultures helps them analyze, explain, and judge art images. They also produce art, allowing them to share their ideas with others and foster their creativity.’

I am saddened by the school board’s decision to cut art and music classes. The music teacher and I gave a PowerPoint presentation that cited research on the importance of studying fine arts, but it didn’t change the board’s mind. Next year, three teachers (instead of four) will serve about 2,100 students (K-12) a week in art. The music program was cut by same amount.

I urge lawmakers to provide funding to retain fine arts in the curriculum for Illinois K-12 students. A life without art is quite dull. Art matters!

Christy S
Cuts in ‘extras’ particularly hard on kids with special needs
Kankakee, Illinois

In our school district of 5,500 students, we’re laying off 37 teachers, four administrators, two clerical staff and two paraprofessionals. My son, a second-year school social worker with a 10-month old infant and wife to support, just had his job eliminated.

We’re cutting out all extras in our district: after-school programs, summer school, reading interventionists, parenting programs, job coaches, preschool, people who provide RTI interventions. We’ve filled in our swimming pool. Band and orchestra kids will have to pay for the bus rides to competitions.

We’ve never seen such cutbacks in the 30 years I’ve been in education. Bigger classes will affect our growing numbers of bipolar and autistic kid’s more than typical kids. Illinois schools weren’t the best to begin with. These cuts are a devastating blow to our state.

Deanna S
Librarian cut one year short of full retirement
Mt. Olive, Illinois

My position as librarian has been cut due to lack of state funds. I am one year short of full retirement.

Elizabeth F
Movie stars earn millions, but funding for teachers isn’t there
St. Charles, Illinois

I am a highly qualified teacher with an education degree as well as a master’s degree in reading. And yet, I was released due to economic reasons. Where has this nation gone? Sports and movie stars receive millions for what they do and advertisers pay millions to show commercials during the Super Bowl. But funding for teachers isn’t there and the foundation of our students’ future is crumbling. My daughter aspires to be an educator one day, too. I am encouraging her to pursue another career.

Indiana

Holly A
Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Scottsburg, Indiana

I finally landed my dream job: working in the education system doing individual and group counseling. I left a higher paying job (medical social worker) during a pregnancy to take a job in my home town at the same elementary school I attended. Just a few weeks after I returned from maternity leave, I received school board minutes in my mailbox that listed my name under “cost cutting considerations” to be RIFed.

I am devastated for myself and my family. I have never been unemployed since I was old enough to work. I have two small children at home and a husband who is a full-time student. We were relying on my income and his GI bill money to survive.

More importantly, I am devastated and upset at how this will impact the students. Our district has made $1 million worth of cuts, including 8 certified teaching positions. We have 4 elementary schools and only 2 social work positions and 1 guidance counselor position (who has been off all year with her husband after a heart transplant). Our county has major issues with domestic violence and substance abuse. Every day, we are doing crisis counseling with students just to help them pull it together enough to focus on school and make it through the day. 50-60% of our students are living below the poverty line. I would say approximately 40% of them have a parent who is incarcerated or they are living with another family member or family friend due to their parents’ substance abuse issues and inability to parent properly.

Please consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If students’ basic needs are not being met proper shelter, nutrition, clothing, safety how can we expect them to focus on a classroom lesson? We social workers and counselors connect families with community resources, work closely with family physicians, parents, and teachers.

Please save our schools. Please fight for our children. They are OUR future!  We need more money in the education system. Ideally, we could have a social worker or counselor at every elementary school. Our students’ problems will not go away. Without adequate support, the teacher who already has an overcrowded class or the principal will become the counselor. Students who have it together will also be affected, forced to wait while the teacher inadequately counsels a fellow student who is in crisis.

Christine H
District is considering cuts in guidance counseling, librarians
Angola, Indiana

Our district is looking at cutting programs such as guidance counseling and librarians.

Brenda T
No programs to prepare students for the workforce
Fishers, Indiana

I teach family and consumer science, and have some difficulties in my classrooms due to low funding. The students in my classes range from 6th to 12th grade, which proves to be disastrous in my attempt to teach every student. There are currently no programs that provide technical job training to prepare students for the workforce. We also need summer programs to ensure that students do not fall behind while at home.

Shari B
Next year, just one business teacher for grades 7-12
Plymouth, Indiana

I was 39 years old when I decided to get back into education after 13 years in the business world. I have a degree in secondary business education, a vocational endorsement, and taught for two years right out of college. What I brought to the table this time around was experience. I back up everything I teach my kids with the “real life” experience I gained while working. I teach them about Internet safety and develop financial literacy with units on budgets, credit, saving and careers.

My job has been eliminated at the close of this year. Next year, there will only be one business teacher for grades 7-12. Every single person going into the working world should have a basic knowledge of business and keyboarding. Our kids will no longer have that option.

Carissa R
Bigger classes and fewer courses are not good for our kids!
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Our school district has had to RIF over 311 teachers in order to cut costs. My school alone had 18 teachers riffed and the rest declared ‘surplus’ as we have been labeled a “turnaround school.” Our staff has changed drastically over the past five years and will continue to change again this year. My concern is the continuing reductions in force and budget cuts: How can they be in the best interests of our students? Bigger classes and fewer courses are not good for our kids! We as a nation need to decide to put the education of our children first and cut corners in other ways. Charter schools are not the answer.

Theresa W
We are losing honored teachers in foreign language and arts
Lafayette, Indiana

This past month, our superintendent honored the top teachers in Indiana. It saddened me that at least two of those teachers received RIF notices due to budget cuts. It is so sad that we are losing honored teachers in areas such as foreign language and arts. We need diversity in our schools so that our culture and society can survive. We are a richly diverse population and we must foster students in an equally diverse school setting.

Patricia H
Our district had 23 media specialists; next year it will have three
Lafayette, Indiana

I am an Indiana media specialist with 17 years of experience who was laid off this spring. Our school district had 23 media specialists and next year will have only three. Three of the most senior librarians kept their jobs, four were laid off, and 16 other media specialists were displaced. Next fall, all the libraries will be run by aides who do not have the required certification or any library science courses at all. And they will be paid just over $10 per hour.

Karen F
Never mind what is best for the students
Valparaiso, Indiana

I have excellent credentials and have received outstanding evaluations every year. But our school corporation has decided to cut the entire physical education department, along with the entire art department, to save money. Never mind what is best for the students.

Denise B
Find money to education for the sake of our children’s future
Lowell, Indiana

I was a library media specialist with 16 years experience when I was RIFed. The corporation decided that since I was not a classroom teacher I was expendable. I spent the last year looking for a job, on unemployment, and decided to return to school to pursue an administrator license. I am not sure if I can continue pursuing a license because I cannot afford the classes without finding a job. We need to find money to education for the sake of our children’s future.

Dan R
Financial constraints are depriving students of opportunities
Wheatfield, Indiana

I have been teaching and coaching at Kankakee Valley High School in Wheatfield, Indiana, for 31 years. I am being RIF’d due to budget cuts in our state. I am the head boys’ tennis coach, head boys’ swim coach, and head boys’ track and field coach. I also teach driver education in the summer. I have always been the first to arrive and the last to leave for all these years. I have many more good years to offer my corporation. It seems ridiculous to me that my students and athletes will be deprived of an educational and athletic opportunity due to money constraints. What is more important than our nation’s children receiving a quality education?

Malinda M
Is there no alternative to this debacle?
Elkhart, Indiana

I am a second-year language arts teacher in a high school. Despite district assessments and data collection, my colleagues and I have pressed on with positive attitudes this year. It is very disheartening to learn that there will be many RIFs in our district and that secondary teachers are being singled out. Financial problems outweigh my degrees in English and reading, and my certification to teach AP classes. In less than a year, I will have my masters degree in education but I will be unemployed, unable to share my creativity and vitality with my students. Is there no alternative to this debacle?

Cecil S
Race to the Top won’t save arts education
Lafayette, Indiana

Indiana’s governor has announced that $30 million must be cut from education spending. In many districts, art and music positions are among the first to go. In my own district, four elementary music teachers will be retiring this year. Their positions will not be filled by a certified music educator, but by current classroom teachers. The coming school year will be the worst I have seen in my 29 years of teaching.

Our governor, Mitch Daniels, thinks he can use a business model to reform public schools. He and our state school superintendent, Tony Bennett, recently asked the Indiana State Teachers Association to sign off on a Race to the Top grant application that basically ends collective bargaining, eliminates seniority, and encourages merit pay.

Our public schools are good, but for some reason our governor thinks they aren’t. How can we educate our students when our governor has given public schools a vote of NO CONFIDENCE?  If a student treated a teacher with this much disrespect, that student would probably be put in detention or suspended from school.

Wendy P
Elementary schools lose information technology experts
Indianapolis, Indiana

These are my last days as an elementary school librarian. I am the sole provider of technology education and information literacy instruction in two buildings, but all elementary school librarians are being eliminated due to lack of funding. As a result, no child in our system will receive instruction from a certified school library media specialist until 5th grade. Is this any way to develop 21st century skills?

Kris M
Decision to end school library program is ‘˜appalling’
Bloomington, Indiana

In Bloomington, Indiana, the Monroe County Community School Corporation intends to eliminate all but one of the school librarians in the school system. This eradication of a profession and program is appalling. The school board claims that by eliminating the program, teachers will be saved in the classroom. What they do not understand is that I and the other 18 school librarians are teachers; the school library is our classroom.

I am one of the only teachers in the building who sees and knows all 580 students in our school. I teach them to be lifelong learners and readers to gather information that helps them learn about themselves, the world they live in, and the world that they could live in. We need to keep our school librarians and keep them teaching our students if they are to become highly educated learners and readers.

Melissa E
Indiana schools are in a race to the bottom
West Lafayette, Indiana

I have been a school librarian for five years. In that time, my middle school has become an innovative, reading-centered place where the needs of our students are identified through a variety of measures and instruction is modified to meet their needs. All our work is being rapidly undone by budget cuts made at the state level. In our district, 167 teachers are being cut (1/5 of the staff), including some of our most innovative staff members. Losing them will impact our students’ ability to succeed in today’s competitive job market.

Our kids need the innovative, technologically rich education they have come to expect, not a return to the schools of the 1950s. Indiana schools are in a race to the bottom.

Kim K
Highly effective reading program ending because of layoffs
Warsaw, Indiana

Over the last two years, our school implemented a three-tiered system for reading education. Students were grouped by reading level across each grade and ALL students received the instruction they needed. Very low student reading scores soared because of this important program, which is now ending because of layoffs. Remember: the students of today will be taking care of us when we can no longer take care of ourselves. If we do not teach them well, WE will pay in the end.

Iowa

Elizabeth B
Laid off despite special training in AP physics, other sciences
Ames, Iowa

I have been teaching physics and other sciences at Ames High School for four years. Last summer, I was sent to a conference to learn how to teach Advanced Placement Physics for the 2009-10 school year; I really enjoyed teaching AP. This summer, I was selected for an internship to improve my pedagogy and learn about scientific research by working with scientists at the Ames Lab National Laboratory and Iowa State University. It was to be a three-summer internship but now I have been laid off and I do not know what will happen.

Class size and work load for the remaining teachers in my district are going to increase so much I don’t know if I would want to still be contract. I feel for the students and the teachers, and the whole educational system. There has got to be a better way to make these budget cuts.

Nancy P
We need master teachers, but the system is not prepared for that need
Iowa City, Iowa

I am an excellent reading teacher. I’ve been teaching reading for 30 years. This year due to cut backs from Title I funding and the fact that Title I money has to pay for things beyond the needs of the students such as busing them to other schools our effective reading teachers are being cut. I’m not ready to retire and the students aren’t ready for me to retire, but if I don’t leave younger people will be displaced. In a time of need for our students to excel more and faster than ever academically, my leaving teaching creates a void. I’ll be a burden before my time on Social Security’s strained finances. There is something wrong with this picture. We want and need master teachers yet the system is not prepared for that need. It’s a travesty.

Yes, I will volunteer. But again, is that the kind of system we should be establishing?  I don’t think so.

Angela W
World history, social studies no longer valued due to NCLB
Dubuque, Iowa

I am a social studies teacher in Iowa. I worked in a private school for 7.5 years and then moved to a public high school, where I have been teaching for six years. On March 24th, the human resources staff began passing out pink slips, the result of a ‘restructuring’ to save money in our cash-strapped school district.

The job of social studies teacher in our middle schools is becoming a shared position. Math, language arts, and other personnel will be forced to obtain conditional licensure and share the position of social studies teacher, all in the name of cost efficiency. No longer will highly qualified teachers share the history of the world with students. Instead, anxiety ridden teachers will be forced to teach an unfamiliar subject in a highly stressed, overcrowded environment.

Social studies is the very essence of being human: psychology, sociology, world history, U.S. history, government, and economics. But if the current cuts hold, social studies will be placed at the end of the line because it is not measured as a component of No Child Left Behind.

My daughter attends the school where I teach. I am concerned that she will have larger classes, fewer choices, and less support. As a parent, I know that my child’s future success depends on a strong education in her formative years. As a teacher, I know that my job may soon depend on the progress of student achievement. If classes are larger, and students aren’t getting the help they need, how are any of us to succeed?

If we don’t put education at the forefront, the United States will not be a major player in the global community of the future.

Marcee
Please support the arts!
Coralville, Iowa

I was recently informed that my position may be reduced next year the only full-time certified staff likely to be reduced, not including attrition. Many part-time non-certified staff will likely be reduced also.

I teach elementary visual art to over 500 students each week in two buildings. The arts are very important to all students and should not be reduced. It is already challenging to provide quality lessons in the limited time  I have with students due to scheduling conflicts, they do not always get art once a week. The arts are vital to student education and development. Arts jobs and income make up a significant part of our economy. Please support the arts!

Kansas

Diana H
Teacher layoffs will lead to larger classes
Augusta, Kansas

For the second time in 10 years, our English classes have only 22 students on average. This has allowed us to do more one-on-one and continue to ‘ramp up’ scores on state assessments. Next year, the school board feels it may have no choice but to lay off one teacher from each of the core areas: English, science and math. Classes will average 28-30 students.

Please save teachers’ jobs. Remember: we (especially in high school) prepare students to be literate and skilled young adults the work force of tomorrow.

Michelle K
Teacher-of-the-year nominee puts job at risk to close achievement gaps
Baldwin City, Kansas

I love teaching. The constant challenges of public education create the most rewarding experiences in this ever-changing career.

Last spring, I resigned from a safe, stable district where I was a tenured teacher. This year, I teach in an urban high school where roughly 80% of our students are low-SES, about 35% are special education students, and the ever-widening achievement gaps threaten the very existence of our school.

This is it for our secondary students; they have to have a solid education in order to change their future. Every single day utilizes every ounce of my knowledge, experience, training, and creativity. Every single day is worth it. Education has always been the great equalizer, removing limitations and allowing room for life’s treasured possibilities.

Recently, our state legislature moved back the school notification of RIFs/nonrenewals from May 1 to May 24. Students will be out of school before I know whether or not I will be back next year. Five years ago, I was the district’s nominee for secondary Kansas Teacher of the Year in a different district. Next year, I may not be anyone’s teacher in any district.

And I absolutely still love teaching.

Kentucky

Evelyn N
Reading courses are needed at the high school level
Madisonville, Kentucky

With the implementation of President Obama’s education stimulus funding last school year, our school district implemented for the first time (to my knowledge) a “reading teacher” at the high school level to target low reading test scores. I was an elementary teacher and applied for the position since I am certified to teach K-12 reading and writing. I got the job.

Each trimester (there were three), all of my students showed progress and most showed significantly increased reading levels. Some of my students were on pre-primer reading level when they entered my reading class and showed 2-4 years of growth in one or two trimesters.

I was notified in March, after students were tested via ThinkLink in Reading, that my program was being eliminated because reading scores were up and math scores down.

It saddens me deeply that this much-needed reading class has been cut. Although students should be able to read by the time they get to high school level, many cannot or are not fluent readers. These students don’t have sufficient reading comprehension skills to succeed in other core content classes.

Reading courses are very much needed at the high school level. They should be a continuation of elementary and middle school classes for students who are still struggling with basic reading skills.

Catherine P
Former science teacher urges early intervention to help struggling readers
Richmond, Kentucky

I am a reading interventionist for a low-income, Title I school in Madison County, Kentucky. I was recently pink-slipped because Kentucky has not yet passed a budget for the coming year and we do not know if we will have approval for the Read to Achieve grant that helps pay my salary.

This was my first year as a reading interventionist for primary students. I previously spent two years as a fourth grade science teacher and was extremely distressed by the number of students who made it to the fourth grade and were reading two to three grades below level. They often had to work so hard to decode the words that the content was totally lost. We need more intervention in the primary grades so that this does not happen!

We need to intervene early to help struggling readers make up lost ground and catch up to their ‘on level’ peers. I have done my part this year and have seen the students I work with grow and learn so much in the 20 weeks I was with them. My kids and kids everywhere deserve every opportunity to succeed. We do them a disservice by denying them access to certified teachers who are able to work with them individually.

Dan O
Central office positions added even as teachers are cut
Lexington, Kentucky

 

My own job is not in danger, but I have another kind of story to tell. I have kept a careful eye on this for a long time. I notice that whenever budgets are cut, school districts cut teachers, elective classes, supplies, libraries, field trips, and extracurricular activities. They NEVER cut central office positions. As a matter of fact, while making all the above cuts, they are still ADDING central office positions. How many Assistant Coordinators of Secondary Curriculum, or Assistant Selectors of Textbook Purchasing, or Assistant Directors of Transportation does one school district need?

Let the legislators mandate that for every teaching position cut, one administrative position must be cut. THEN you’ll see a drastic change.

Maine

Lee L
Elementary music program cut to the dismay of parents and students
Gray, Maine

I have taught elementary music in a rural school in central Maine for 23 years. My students some are children of former students and colleagues have become my extended family. In November, our school board announced that, because of a curtailment of state funding, 16 staff members would be laid off immediately and K-6 music and art for 800+ students would be eliminated entirely. The teachers association negotiated four furlough days to make up the shortfall, which prevented layoffs and program cuts.

The news for 2010-11 was worse. Faced with an additional cutback of $1.2 million in state aid, the proposed budget included significant reductions and elimination of programs including music, art, languages, gifted and talented, industrial arts as well as increased class sizes. At public meetings, parents urged the school board to reconsider cutting the music program. Many stated they were willing to support a tax increase to keep music and other programs for their children.

In an effort to appease parents, the board restructured K-6 music and created a single  ‘music coordinator’ position for nearly 800 students in three schools. The final budget approved by voters represented a 6.49% reduction from 2009-10; it raised class sizes, cut programs and more than 20 teachers, and decreased taxes in two of the three towns.

My music colleagues and I received our lay-off notices in early May. We can now apply for the coordinator position, which involves chorus, band, instrumental lessons, and consulting with classroom teachers to integrate music into classroom instruction an impossible task.

My greatest concern is for my students and the loss of quality music instruction, which promotes brain development, academic achievement, and positive self-esteem. One of my students wrote to me:  ‘I consider chorus not just a group, or a community, I consider chorus a family.’ No one can measure the effect these drastic cuts will have on the children of our communities.

Cynthia B
I’d retire if I could collect the Social Security that is rightfully mine
Winterport, Maine

I am a 28-year, veteran teacher who would like to retire (at age 67), but must continue teaching due to the fact that I won’t be able to collect the Social Security that is due to me. If I could collect what is rightfully mine, I would retire. With what they would save on my salary, my district could hire a replacement for me and another teacher wouldn’t have to lose her job. I’m sure many, many teachers are in my position.

Susan H
Pass ‘˜saving education jobs’ bill
Saco, Maine

This year in our school district, millions of dollars had to be cut because state revenues dropped. Art, music, and foreign language programs were cut. I have never seen it this bad in my 25 years as an art teacher. I think it is a travesty to be decimating these programs that help kids problem solve and think in a different way. We have to teach to both sides of the brain and teach about our cultural heritage. These programs also provide some stress release and joy. It would make for a dry academic day without art and music. I see how young children are expected to reach certain benchmarks when developmentally they are not ready. I am concerned about my job security I am approaching retirement, paying into a retirement system, and will not be collecting Social Security. What are we supposed to do? I don’t think that the job situation is being focused on enough. I support a ‘saving education jobs’ bill. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.

Maryland

Lisa H
Regular teachers cannot teach special needs students without assistance
Darlington, Maryland

I teach full-inclusion classes with no assistance. In a single class, a teacher can have ten medicated students, ten more with individual education plans, and another ten ranging from average to gifted.

A veteran teacher may be able to keep the majority of students learning in such an environment, but many new teachers leave for higher salaries and sanity in the private sector. If the goal is to retain new teachers and keep veteran teachers, then instead of demoralizing the profession, provide updated technology and more teachers in specialized areas. If the goal is full inclusion, then provide funding for enough teachers.

Regular teachers cannot teach special needs students without assistance. Time for the general population is consumed by IEP meetings and extra planning for special needs students who require accommodations.

Regular education students are not having their needs met. If we are going to compete in a global economy, we need to meet their needs with more teachers in the classroom and more funding for supplies.

Bruce P
Just another example of how little politicians understand education
Kensington, Maryland

Why has it taken so long to recognize this problem? Most schools have already been notified of their staffing allocations. Many teachers have made alternate plans as a result. A fellow teacher who has worked endless additional hours for his students has been given notice that his position has been eliminated. As a result, he has accepted a job elsewhere. Even if the funding comes through to rehire this position, he will not be available. Our school has lost a strong advocate for students who will be difficult to replace. This is just another example of how little politicians understand education.

Elizabeth M
Caring person wants to be a credit teacher, but can’t afford to
Western Maryland

 

I teach fifth grade in a public school in western Maryland. I have 24 students in an open-air classroom with three other teachers nearby. Eight of my students are ADD or ADHD, one is bipolar, and six have individualized education plans that require a reader and writer. I attempt to use technology and ‘active’ lessons. But when one of my teaching partners plays an educational video or conducts an activity that requires interaction (often the case), my students have a very hard time focusing on the lesson in the classroom. We need funding to change open-air classrooms into classrooms with walls.

Because of all the differentiation in my classroom, it takes me about 10 hours each week beyond paid teaching time to plan lessons. I spend another five hours each week grading differentiated classwork and assessments. ‘This should get done during your planning time,’ you say. Planning time is when I meet with the parents of a student who consistently bullies other students, with a student who is consistently tardy and needs one-on-one time to catch up, or with another student who is failing because he can’t focus in the open-air classroom. And so on and so on.

I wish I didn’t have to be a parent to these children. But as long as we don’t hold parents accountable (it is nearly impossible to hold a student back, or at least principals have been scared into not allowing it), I will continue to be of a parent than a teacher. As a result, I will lose my love of teaching lower-income students and I will quit go into business or settle for something that isn’t as important as teaching. Don’t judge me by that comment. If you think you could do this for the rest of your working career, you haven’t worked in a school like mine.

I am constantly torn up by my job and by the lack of monetary support for teachers. As long as we pay teachers peanuts, ‘the best of the best’ will not become teachers and we will fall behind other countries in performance. I am angered by the fact that this concept seems crazy to our constituents. I am frustrated that education isn’t our number one priority. I am not a crazy left- or right-wing radical. I am a caring person who wants to be a great teacher, but can’t afford to.

Massachusetts

Elizabeth O
Not giving our children the best nutrition available
Shutesbury, Massachusetts

Amherst has cut repair, replacement, books, and supplies for students. As a PE teacher, I have more classes and more students in each class.  With more kids, less money and no funding for professional development, we’re now down to bare bones. Bare bones would be malnutrition; we are too poor to give our children the best nutrition available i.e., we cannot teach as well as our reputation supposedly dictates.

Susan M
District no longer teaches typing or basic computer skills
Westford, Massachusetts

For the last 6 years, I have been teaching computer literacy classes in an affluent middle school in the suburbs of Boston. As an instructional technologist, I assist teachers with integrating technology in the classroom and provide technical support. Our school district focused this year on 21st century learning and the importance of preparing our students for the future. Ironically, my position was eliminated due to a lack of funding and a failed proposition 2 1/2 override on June 14th. I am the only instructional technologist in my district, so now there won’t be any formal instruction in typing, basic computer skills, software applications, or cyber citizenship and safety.

Laurie T
Class size continues to grow and we have no art and no music
Palmer, Massachusetts

It is so frustrating to continually watch our country spend billions on a war effort overseas, yet our own citizens are NOT being taken care of. In my school district, there is another round of cuts to teaching positions, on top of the many that were cut last year. Our class size continues to grow, and we will no longer be offering music, or art. The people being hurt by all of this are our children. They are our future and we are throwing it away.

Kathleen B
ALL children are being left behind and punished
Upton, Massachusetts

Our town is laying off almost 40 teachers this year. Our teachers have had no raises and several furlough days equal to a 2% pay cut. We have had no classroom budget money for supplies. Next year, first-grade classes will have 29 children; my third-grader will be one of 33 in a class. The numbers for the other grades are worse and there will be no additional support.

A good teacher can manage the behavior of a large class, but we all know that without individual attention in reading groups and writing conferences, children will not move ahead much in either of those areas. Differentiation in classes this large is almost impossible, which will hurt student progress and motivation.

In addition, our state has school choice so parents will begin sending their children to other school districts. That will drain the town of even more funds as the district will have to pay other towns for receiving its students, ultimately resulting in further cuts.

Where will the cycle end? And what about No Child Left Behind? Now, ALL children are being left behind and punished.

Cuts could be made in many other areas that would not compromise the education of our children and the future of our country.

Sue H
Cuts threaten school libraries and student literacy
Quincy, Massachusetts

Our school system has been hit hard. Two of the areas that will be eliminated or deeply cut are librarians and literacy teachers. Starting in the fall, only about half the students who need help from literacy teachers will be served; third graders who must take the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System Test will no longer receive literacy help. Our media teachers and librarians will also be cut. It’s hard to believe that the libraries that our schools have heavily invested in will continue to flourish after these staff members leave. We rely on their expertise for literature and reading programs.

I strongly urge every member of Congress to think long and hard about the losses schools will face if the education jobs fund bill does not pass. Most teachers I know teach because they love the children, they love seeing them learn, and they take their jobs very seriously. I know this is why I have been a teacher for nearly 30 years now.

Judith C
Add classes, give students a fighting chance of success
Randolph, Massachusetts

I am a paraprofessional in the first grade of a school considered an urban school although it is located in a suburb. This year, each of the 2 first grade classes in our school had 26 students and a significant number of behavior problems in each class. Teachers were told to keep one child away from certain others, but they could only switch seating plans so many times before they ran out of options.

The students will continue to second grade next year, where the classes are being cut from 3 to 2 same students, same issues, different grade. Our school has 3 third and fourth grades going into 2 fifth and sixth grades. And we are expected to improve our MCAS scores with numbers like these?

If we had one more class in each grade level that now has 2 classes, at least the students would have a fighting chance at success. Now, all they have to look forward to is a black hole to fall into.

Janice S
Students need hands-on and practical training
Rochdale, Massachusetts

I teach physics and environmental science in a local high school. The business and shop departments are being cut due to lack of funding. With a large blue collar population in this town, we need all the hands-on and practical training that we can get to keep students in school.

Another problem is that I have no budget for my classes next year and will have to use my credit card for the on-line lab that we use to teach crucial physics and environmental science topics. We cannot continue to lose the lead in science and innovation. Students need to ‘get’ that science is fun and not just math on the board. Please help!

Pamela B
It shouldn’t take three years to earn ‘professional status’ (aka tenure)
Haverhill, Massachusetts

I have been teaching for 15 years, but in those years, I have been able to earn “professional status” only once. Professional status, once known at tenure, is attained when you have worked 3 years and one day in a district. Every time an educator changes school districts, the 3-year process begins again. I understand the need to keep unqualified educators out of public schools, but does it take 3 years for an administrator to determine whether he or she has hired a qualified “professional”?

The moniker “professional status” is highly denigrating to those of us who are well-educated and have paid dearly (or are still paying) for that education. I have a master’s degree in education, 36 graduate credits beyond that, and am certified in elementary and middle school education and as a reading specialist. In what profession, besides education, is this not considered “professional”?

My contract was not renewed at the end of my second year of teaching in my current district. I’m back to the education profession’s ‘ground zero.”  I am completely exhausted and don’t know that I can start the process of seeking employment and “professional status” all over again.

Brooke D
Thirty-four in a class is too much and next year I’ll have 40!
Bridgewater, Massachusetts

I am a third-grade teacher at a wonderful school in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, which is staffed by  innovative, hard-working people. They also have a sense of humor, grace, and love for all students. However, in my 11 years of teaching, I have watched the quality of our school deteriorate. I have not been given a pink slip and will be returning to my classroom in the fall. My concern is what I will be returning to.

Due to budget constraints in our town, our third-grade team of teachers has 34 students in each room this year. For safety reasons alone, no teacher should be responsible for 34 children. When we walk to physical education, the line is so long I cannot see all the children no matter where I stand. It is virtually impossible to walk out of my building (after hours of overtime) and feel I have done a good enough job. But my real concern is for my students.

How must it feel to a 9-year-old to wait in a long line to have a simple question answered? How many students don’t raise their hands because they know what the waiting time for an answer will be? I have been educated and trained to differentiate lesson plans, to work with students individually on writing and editing, and to meet the social, physical, and emotional needs of all of my students. But 34? I cannot even get through the forest of desks to correct and review papers. There is no more room in my room!

Frustration is especially high among students who need individualized support that I cannot give.

In the faces of my colleagues, I see how their energy is being sapped. Many of us have had to give up second jobs, volunteer positions, and hobbies.

But through it all, I am proud to say that our third-grade team has stuck together and fought for students and the instruction they deserve. We have somehow come through the year OK. But what about next year, when we have 40 students in a class? Picture that classroom. Would you want your child assigned to that room? I wouldn’t.

Sylvia S
Our legislators refuse to consider tax increases for the rich
Plainfield, Massachusetts

I’m a member of an all-ESP local. Our raises over the past 20 years have not kept pace with the cost of living and many of our members have second and even third jobs to keep solvent.

Our statewide Higher Ed Leadership Council is facing the most difficult battle in my memory (19 years at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst). The governor has signed our contract, but the legislature is asking for further concessions.

Our legislators refuse to consider tax increases for the rich even though state income is in very sad shape. We need them to stand up for us and for education, kindergarten through higher ed, and be heroes in this urgent time of need. Our cities and towns are facing the loss of vital funds this fall. If something doesn’t happen soon to give us a break, many of our members will most likely lose their jobs.

Mandi S
Higher education enrollment is growing, but not funding
Dudley, Massachusetts

I work in higher education, where we are seeing more and more students enroll. When our budgets are cut, so are resources for the students. We are doing more with less and trying to not lose the services we currently offer. However, the more funding we lose, the harder it is to keep up. The more time demanded of us, the less one-on-one time we have with the students. Education is an important endeavor that should not be cut.

Joni G
Please, Congress, consider funding for higher-education jobs
Fairhaven, Massachusetts

I am a 10 year adjunct instructor for speech/communications at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Massachusetts. Three years ago, a full-time speech professor resigned and that position was never refilled. I have been searching, hoping and praying for a full-time opportunity since I began teaching. There have been only a handful of full-time positions offered in the New England area over the past 10 years with 100’s of applicants for each job posted. The situation doesn’t appear to hold any promise since community colleges cannot afford to hire full-time faculty. Institutions are increasingly replacing full-timers with part-timers to save on expense. This trend needs to stop. Adjuncts spend just as much time and are equally dedicated to teaching the same courses as full-time, yet we don’t receive equal compensation. Please, Congress, consider funding for higher education jobs.

Charlotte C
Scary to know that I may not have a job in the fall
Westfield, Massachusetts

I work for the TRiO Student Support Services Program at Westfield State College, which offers academic, career and personal support to low-income and first-generation college students, and students with disabilities. Our programs are level-funded year after year and constantly threatened with being slashed or losing federal funding completely extremely worrisome for me as well as the students who rely on this valuable resource for support. This year, we are applying for renewal of our grant from the U.S. Department of Education; my spouse and I also had our first child. It’s very scary to know that I may not have a job in the fall. Please join me in supporting these important, critical programs!

Linda R
Step up to the plate and put money behind our talk about nutrition
Kingston, Massachusetts

I was laid off last year and have not been able to find a full-time job. I taught health and nutrition. We all know nutrition impacts children and their ability to learn, but this program was seen as not important. I taught nutrition along with reading, math and food science. Many students told me they had never understood fractions until they applied them to recipe conversions.

I hope that all the talk about childhood obesity becomes more than just talk. Students need to learn what a healthy diet is and how to prepare it. Specialists in nutrition are needed, not just health teachers. We need to step up to the plate and put money behind our talk about nutrition.

While school meal programs certainly need to be improved, they provide only about one-third to one-half the food that a child eats. Children need to be educated about food choices. Positive behavior choices can be made in the classroom, leading to changes that produce long-lasting effects.

E. Philip B
Pink-Slipped three years in a row
Haverhill, Massachusetts

I am in danger of losing my job. This will be the third year in a row that I will be pink-slipped. Last year, I was called back three days before the school year started. If it wasn’t for stimulus money, I definitely would have lost my job. My school system has been running on fumes for years now. We need all the help we can get from Washington to get us through these difficult times.

Sherry D
What will I do if I can no longer be a teacher?
Winchester, Massachusetts

I am a mother of three and my husband does not work due to cuts in business through the years. I entered education eight years ago and have experienced layoffs throughout my career. Luckily, I have always found a job to get my family through these tough times. My student loans are crippling. If I am laid off again this year my last year before tenure I have no savings and no idea how I will care for my family.

I am a special educator and never have dreamed I would love my job as much as I do. I love assisting children in their learning and the collaborative team environment in my school. I would be lost without this piece of my identity. I do not stop being an educator at the end of a school day. I tutor children in need because they need help and their families can’t afford a tutor. I coordinate a religious education program for children with autism.

I love my career. It is who I am: an educator. What will I do if I can no longer be a teacher? How will my family survive? Where can I find work and use my master’s degree in special education when jobs in all fields are being cut? Please help.

Renee L
I inspire young people to enter the nursing profession
Brockton, Massachusetts

After working as a registered nurse for eleven years in a Boston hospital, I found my true calling last August: I was hired to teach in the nursing program at a large public high school. It has been more enjoyable and fulfilling than I could have imagined inspiring and preparing young people to become nurses and nursing assistants. With the impending budget cuts, I fear that my program and others like it will be in jeopardy. Please fight to keep them alive and well, so that we may continue to give our students the opportunity to find THEIR true calling.

Marie C
My class is not ‘extra’ learning about health and nutrition is important
Bellingham, Massachusetts

After eleven years of teaching, my job is being cut at the end of this year. Some people would say that is okay because I teach an ‘extra’ class: family and consumer science at Bellingham Memorial Middle School in Bellingham, Massachusetts. But that is far from the truth. We cross curriculum with math and science daily. Students put what they learn into immediate use.

One major issue my class addresses is health and nutrition. This is the first generation of students who are not expected to live a longer than their parents. My class teaches how to prevent this. When 32% of our youth are obese, my class is urgently needed. I have struggled with maintaining a healthy weight all my life and know firsthand what this does to a person.

Children get only one shot at an education. It is not their fault they are in school during a devastating economic crisis.

John & Kathleen M
Pass jobs package to keep our nation on the road to recovery
Norfolk, Massachusetts

As teachers one retired after 37 years, one still working residents, and voters, we see our town’s school committee and board of selectmen struggling to fund schools and town services.  The ‘worst case scenario’ is that come September, all reading specialists in our two elementary schools would be dropped and replaced by aides or assistants (not likely to be highly trained or licensed in the teaching of reading); they would be paid on an hourly basis.

This so-called solution would be devastating for the most needy students and the most highly trained teachers. But it is what the superintendent proposes to do unless a tax override is approved this spring. The only alternative is letting more lower paid, younger teachers go, and increasing class size as has happened in many neighboring towns.

At the March meeting of the school committee, the superintendent displayed a chart that showed the budgets of our two elementary schools have been cut by almost $1 million in the last two years (the tenure of the current superintendent). It is mind-boggling to think that this will continue.

Last year, all teachers were retained (although hours were severely cut for specialists) thanks (very much!) to additional funding provided by the state and federal governments. We strongly urge Congress to act immediately on a jobs package that will help stimulate the economy and keep our nation on the road to recovery.

Andrea L
Act now to prevent a national tragedy
Framingham, Massachusetts

I am a social worker who works in a specialized program within a public middle school. I am also a parent of two school-aged children in the same public school system within which I work.

I am devastated by the trend towards lowering the quality of education in our country and in my home state of Massachusetts.

My particular school system is facing a potential $10 million cut in an operating budget of $95 million. If the cuts are this deep, it could mean the elimination of many excellent programs and over 100 jobs.

My children and other children will suffer as a result.

My school may close. It is a small school of 500 students, where the adults know the students. A recent study, conducted by Harvard University, revealed that students feel valued, like the adults, and want to come to school. This extends across the multicultural and multiracial student body.

These cuts are shortsighted, a terrible blow to families everywhere who are already struggling in the worst economic times of their lives.

I urge anyone who cares to do whatever you can to help prevent this national tragedy.

Jim K
MBA thought teaching poor kids math was a secure job he was wrong
Groton, Massachusetts

After teaching middle school math and science for three years in Lowell, Massachusetts, a reduction-in-force put me on the rolls of the unemployed. For the past year, I have been substitute teaching, paying COBRA, and collecting unemployment assistance benefits to support my family.

I came to teaching following a career change, realizing that I could provide for my family, help others, and challenge myself. I reasoned that teaching a high-needs subject (math/science) in a poverty stricken urban district (Lowell, Massachusetts) would fulfill all of these goals. Little did I imagine that the economic problems stemming from mismanagement within financial institutions would ripple out and affect me in my present circumstances.

I feel I have a solid understanding of the business world (MBA, Northeastern University), having worked in marketing agencies for Fortune 100 clients. If our national, state, and local community leaders are short-sighted enough to forfeit the education of children, then all the stimulus spending and bailouts dreamed up in Washington will not forestall our nation’s decline to second-rate status.

Karl D
Paraprofessional layoffs reverberate throughout rural district
Conway, Massachusetts

I am a teacher writing in support of our district’s paraprofessionals. Our small rural school district will lose a minimum of 11 paraprofessionals this year and new cuts are imminent. Paraprofessionals typically work with our neediest children, those whose physical and emotional disabilities make it difficult for them to access education. The loss will hurt those children the most and it will have an incidental but important impact on the students around them. Teachers will have to divide their attention that much more, impacting the education of all students in the classes that are losing paraprofessionals.

The plight of the students is most important, but these cuts will have a devastating impact on the paraprofessionals themselves and on their community. Many of our paraprofessionals are so poorly paid now that they qualify for public housing assistance. Our community is one of the poorest in the state of Massachusetts and the community will feel the loss of these jobs, taken from among the lowest paid among us. Paraprofessionals perform important work for the most vulnerable of our children. Sacrificing their positions in this economic downturn places the burden on those can least afford bear it.

Michigan

Wendi W
Power hungry machine has lost perspective on meaning of education
Brighton, Michigan

In the school district where I work, shortages of staff have hit us in unexpected areas. One of the most important appears to be cutting teacher aides. Working with special education students is so very important and mainstreaming these children is essential to their thriving in life. Teacher aides provide for a smoother transition into core and elective classes. The students are losing out. The counseling staff has been cut down. This causes more and more student issues to be handled by administrators and teachers. To a degree, this would happen anyway, but programs such as peer support groups cannot be offered due to lack of proper staff.

Our class sizes have increased because the number of teachers has been reduced. Teachers are being forced through manipulative incentive measures to retire. These measures are not just the ones offered by the state or the district. I am referring to the many teachers who are being bullied through a “weeding out” process. This is a deceptive administrative idea to seek out teachers who tire of fighting after being cornered too often.

Why has it come down to degrading education effectiveness? It seems as though a power hungry machine has lost perspective on meaningful education for students.

Jane H
Would be wonderful to hold legislatures to same standards as teachers
Holly, Michigan

I am a special education teacher in an inner city school who has worked in my district for the past 3-and-a-half years. I left work in the private sector to become an educator. I love what I do and I love my students. As of April, I found out that I will have no job as of the end of this school year along with 288 other quality teachers in my district. As a single parent who receives no child support, I would dearly love to figure out how to support my 2 children.

In our state, the legislature just passed an incentive to have “older” teachers retire. If I am called back to work, I will be forced to pay 3% of my pay towards retirement health care. However, there is no guarantee of health care for me if I stay in this state in this profession. I wouldn’t mind paying 3% out of pocket if it weren’t for the no guarantee of benefits when I retire and the fact that I have not had a 3% raise since starting with our district.

It would be a wonderful world if our legislatures were held to the same standards as teachers. In a perfect world, our legislators would have to take a test to determine if they were “highly qualified” to be able to run for office. But our constitution doesn’t require that. All that is required to be a legislator is to reach a certain age and be a citizen. As Lord Cooke once said, “Nothing is safe while the legislature is in session.”

Good luck and God bless all of the teachers in this state and nation. We don’t do this because it’s a “job.” We do this because it’s a calling.

Gayle J
Layoffs hurt the entire community
St. Louis, Michigan

I was not pink slipped, but three wonderful teachers from my building were. It doesn’t just affect those who are pink slipped! It affects all of us, especially the kids! Our student body of 6th, 7th and 8th graders is outraged that their favorite teachers have gotten the “boot.” My children go to this school. These people are my friends. It is a horrible thing to do to the entire community.

William C
Classes are so big kids almost need to sit on each others’ laps
Brethren, Michigan

Last year, our district closed Kaleva Elementary and this year we closed Wellston Elementary. Now, Brethren Elementary, Middle, and High School are in the same building. With nearly 700 K-12 students, class sizes have increased to the point that kids almost need to sit on each others’ laps.

Due to our continuing budget crisis, we will not offer elementary music, band, art, and physical education during the next school year. Five teachers were laid off along with three retirements, a 26% reduction in classroom teachers.

Our school district covers the entire Eastern half of Manistee County and our busing costs have continued to consume a large portion of our budget. James Earl Jones was one of our students. If current trends continue downsizing teachers and programs, and increasing class size our school district may close its doors in the near future.

Connie B
We need sufficient funding to provide great public schools for every student
Traverse City, Michigan

I have read some very moving letters regarding the severity of layoffs among teachers and other certified staff. I am saddened and sickened by what is happening to public education and all the members of our education family, regardless of title or position. Everyone is impacted.

While being laid off is devastating, there is the glimmer of hope that one may be recalled. You will hear about educational support staff under threat of being privatized when, in reality, thousands have already lost their careers. There is no hope for recall because, truth be told, they have been fired. That is the reality of privatization. Now, teachers, coaches, and other ancillary staff are beginning to feel the threat of privatization and outsourcing as well.

Each of us plays a vital role in the life and the education of every child enrolled in a public school. We need sufficient funding to ensure that all education employees are able to hold on to their careers and to fulfill the promise of great public schools for every student.

We want to do what we do best, what we were hired to do: make a difference in our students’ lives, prepare them for the future, and provide them with a world-class education.

Jan P
Troubled by mentality that equates youth and innovation
Ann Arbor, Michigan

I am a National Board-certified teacher and have taught for 40 years in a small, rural, suburban area just north of Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was a union leader for most of those years. Like most states, Michigan is facing major budget difficulties. All areas of the budget have been cut and the focus on the school aid fund has been renewed.

One of the newest attacks is directed on the retirement system. The government has initiated an early retirement incentive to encourage teachers 60 or older, or whose age and years of service total 80, to retire from public school work. As part of the package, remaining teachers will be “taxed” and have to contribute an additional 3% of their salary to the retirement fund. Other “penalties” will be imposed on new teachers.

Discussions of this issue assume that veteran teachers are expendable deadwood, no longer effective and innovative, and that new teachers will improve the educational system with their young ideas and creative teaching. This mentality equates youth and innovation. The assumption is that if you have the title ‘teacher,’ you magically have knowledge of curriculum requirements, relationships with students and families, mastery of classroom management, and the pedagogy necessary to be innovative and deliver ‘it all.’ Experience and all the skills and knowledge that go with it are not valued.

In my district of 75 teachers, 16 are receiving pink slips. Because veteran teachers are eligible for retirement and can take advantage of the incentives offered by the state, we are being made to feel guilty. Comments about how we would be saving jobs for pink-slipped teachers abound. One teacher jokingly said, ‘Thanks for your service, but I want my job. So don’t let the door hit you in the butt as you go out the door.’

The public, politicians, school administrators and even some teachers blame the unions for the financial crisis. They fail look at the underlying issues of how schools are funded, and the state of the whole economy. Even in Michigan, a very union-based state, there is finger-pointing and blame. Newly or recently hired teachers don’t understand, nor do they want to hear about, how unions have gotten contract language that offers protections that did not exist before. They don’t want to hear about how their benefits and salary are a product of the work of the unions. They are willing to give up their rights and strength as union members; they think it will save jobs. Their short-sightedness will come to haunt them if they give in to it.

I will most likely take advantage of the retirement incentive. I feel sad. I love my job. I love the children. I look forward to being in school every day. My students’ test scores are strong. Many parents request my classroom for their children. My students seem to like coming to school. I try to make them feel loved, valued and safe. I promise them that they will learn something new every day and I keep that promise. But in the end, I am an expense. If I retire, along with 7-10 of my colleagues, we will help a few others keep their jobs. I will save the district money, but I wonder about the real cost.

Leah W
Laid off from a job no one else wanted that I absolutely love
Ann Arbor, Michigan

I am being laid off from a job that no one else wanted and I absolutely love: teaching severely cognitively impaired adults ages 18-26. I love the challenges as well as the rewards my students give me each day the smiles on their faces and the gleams in their eyes. Together, we have reached many milestones that others thought would never be attained.

My students are “throwaways.” Their biological parents gave up on them long ago and made them wards of the state, which put them in tiny, birdhouse-like group homes much like the asylums of yesteryear. I will miss all my students even though they will not know when I am gone. I truly believe that if my bosses were able to look deeply into their eyes and hearts, they would not lay me off due to budget cuts. I have taught for more than four years and, like most dedicated teachers, have invested my time, love, and salary back in my students and their program. I went into teaching believing I would make a difference in my students’ lives and I have succeeded.

I am not bitter, though. I believe that someone will hire me once again. I gave up a lucrative career as a nurse and now am wondering what I will do when the door to my classroom is given to another employee with more seniority. I wish all legislators would heed this advice from me: ‘Do not become too comfortable in your job, for you are just one slip and fall from being on someone else’s caseload.’

Louise H
I hate feeling I had to leave when I still wanted to be teaching
Mesick, Michigan

I am sure some will say, ‘It’s about time you retired … let someone ‘˜young’ have a job.’  But when you have 35+ years invested, recently completed your master’s degree in K-12 reading and literacy, became a reading Specialist, worked for four years with Reading First, and LOVE what you are doing …

I took the buy-out our school offered since I was concerned with the changes in Michigan’s retirement program and possible loss of insurance. Sure, I’m 58. But I hate feeling I had to leave when I still wanted to be teaching.

Deborah M
Education funding needs to refocus on eternal skills like art
Warren, Michigan

As an elementary art teacher in Michigan, I have always been vulnerable to layoffs. I teach over 900 students per week in two buildings, grades K-5. Our supply budget averages 50 cents per student for the entire year.

Art is the one subject that reaches children of all skill levels, all backgrounds, all cultures, and all experiences. As an exhibiting artist myself, I understand the process of arriving at original ideas. I also understand that art is full of observing and responding to what happens around us, and that it opens doors that help us make the personal decisions we all need to make. Few administrators, politicians, and parents are aware of the many ways in which art helps us make purposeful judgments.

Education funding needs to refocus on eternal needs and skills, not momentary commercial goals. Art, music, and communication skills of all kind are eternal and help people survive and find their own goals.

Jeremiah B
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I’m helping my community
Concord, Michigan

I was laid-off from my teaching position at the end of the last school year. I had been teaching at-risk youth for the last three years and was a couple months away from receiving tenure. When the state of Michigan changed its graduation standards, it was assumed our at-risk students wouldn’t be able to handle the tougher standards and graduate on time. Our school system as a whole would lose funding because our at-risk students would bring our numbers down. We were also facing a shortage in funding from the state and our school system’s declining enrollment was also putting a strain on our school system’s budget. Our successful program was axed.

I have since my lay-off been collecting unemployment (I can make more than substitute teaching). I have also been looking for a teaching job which is almost non-existent in the area in which I live. Most of the schools in my area are in the process of laying off more teachers because of the declining enrollment and decreases in funding. One school in the area is looking at laying off nine teachers and the school system in which I worked is looking at a possible six lay-offs. The state of Michigan is attempting to lure teachers close to retirement or retirement age into retiring with an incentive package. This incentive package may limit some lay-offs, but new teaching jobs opening up will probably not come to fruition. It looks like I will be substitute teaching next school year or finding a job outside the teaching profession. Flip a coin.

While I could have sat around feeling sorry for myself I decided to help out in my community. I was able to fill a vacant seat on our Village Council and have been writing grant requests for our Parks and Recreation Committee. My grant writing work has been very beneficial to my community. We have received about $120,000 in grant money for the construction of a trailhead park in our community. Maybe I’ll stick to politics and come take one of our jobs.

Linda P
Can you imagine 32 five year olds with a single teacher?
Livonia, Michigan

I have been a paraprofessional with Livonia Public Schools in Michigan for 14 years. My job category is on a list to be eliminated in the fall: K-4 early childhood paraprofessional. If the funding cuts stay as they are, my job and the jobs of 11 other paraprofessionals in the district will be gone, as well as those of another 40 people who work directly with the children. We have heard that class size may rise as a result. Can you imagine 31 or 32 five year olds trying to learn what was previously considered first-grade work in a crowded room with a single teacher?

Chris S
Custodian in danger of losing his home
Brighton, Michigan

I am a 55 year old custodian who has worked in the Brighton, Michigan school district for 32 yrs. I was planning on working longer. I take care of my building, my students and staff everyday-and see to it they have a safe clean environment in which to work.

I have been privatized. I will not have a future with my school district. I can no longer say what my students and staff can expect.  The private company will pay half of what I was earning with almost no benefits of any kind.  Now I will become the unemployed- a ward of the state. I do not know if I can keep my home-I am in an upside down mortgage and living here in Michigan I cannot predict if I will find work any time soon. Why was this decision good for my community or my district? Will they be safe & cared for? It’s hard to ask for help.  Before, I did not need it. It was a struggle at times but I could make it on my own. Not so now. How can the government (or the NEA) help me now?

Ken W
35-year teacher may have to leave profession
Ann Arbor, Michigan

I’ve been teaching 35 years, 29 at Pioneer High School.  State legislation that was not passed prior to our spring vacation would have made it financially impossible for me to continue teaching.  There is another bill before our state legislators that will have the same effect.  I love teaching.  My students and their parents want me to continue.  Our leaders need to demonstrate the courage and foresight to raise funds to maintain our schools.  Our children aren’t responsible for our financial problems.  They will be the solution if they are well educated.

Minnesota

Amanda E
Very discouraging to lose my job each year due to funding
Robbinsdale, Minnesota

This is my fifth year in the teaching profession and my fourth time getting “pink slipped.” My first year was just subbing, so no layoffs there. I have a passion for teaching and love working with students every day. It is very discouraging to lose my job each year due to funding. I always know it is coming, but it still feels like a slap in the face.

Last spring, when I was let go from my fifth grade position, my principal was able to create the job I’ve had this year with compensatory monies. For next year, though, he is only able to make the position half-time, which is not enough hours to support myself.

I am currently working towards my master’s degree and received my reading specialist license last spring. I have a wealth of knowledge in literacy. Veteran teachers come to me with questions and looking for suggestions.

Colleagues think I’m an important part of our school. Parents ask whether there is any possibility I will be back. It is so hard to have administrators, colleagues, parents and, of course, students wanting you and unable to do anything about the situation. With achievement gaps growing and classes getting bigger, we need more teachers.

Lee Anne G
Closing a school affects the entire community
St. Paul, Minnesota

I have been teaching for four years and this is my third year to achieve tenure. Due to major budget cuts and schools closing, I was cut from my school’s budget and will probably be cut from the district. This not only affects my job, but also my two children and the community in which we live. My students and parents are upset that our school is merging with another school, and that three other schools within a mile of our school are closing. We considered ourselves “family” at our schools and now are unsure of what the future holds for not only for staff, parents and students, but for the entire community, including businesses.

Michelle K
Department chair and lead teacher laid off
Woodbury, Minnesota

After three years of excellent evaluations and serving as department chair, lead teacher, and building union representative, I was non-renewed because I am “too expensive.’ Two inexperienced teachers were renewed because they were “affordable.’  This is an outrage.  Apparently, providing students with good teachers is less important than providing the school district with “cheap” teachers.  Now the question remains–who will agree to hire me and pay me what I’m worth?  I’m a single parent and have a mortgage to pay, but who cares??  The school district is rid of my big salary, which is all that matters to them.

Christine H
School librarians like me are losing their jobs
Hopkins, Minnesota

I am a library media specialist (school librarian) who was terminated due to budget cuts at the end of last school year. I have been unable to obtain a position this school year, despite 10 years experience and a good reference from my supervisor. I am receiving unemployment benefits, but I would much rather be working.

I worked hard to obtain a position as a library media specialist, along with other teaching positions that I qualify for under my teaching license. I am applying for positions for next school year, but budget cuts are continuing, schools are closing, and even more library media specialists are losing their jobs. I fear the competition for any job openings in my area will only increase.

Many schools are replacing licensed school library media specialists with paraprofessionals to save a little money. Our work is vital and several studies show it increases academic achievement.

Please do all you can so that classroom teachers, specialist teachers (art, music, physical education), and other educators (ELL, school library media centers) receive full funding and avoid cuts. It takes all these educators to help our students become well-rounded, 21st century learners.

Rachel C
Cutting magnet school teachers is counterproductive
Apple Valley, Minnesota

I am a classroom teacher at a magnet school who has been cut for next year. I am very concerned about who will be coming in to take my place. For the past two years, I have been collaborating with other teachers to create standards-based curriculum that coincides with the magnet theme. We have worked incredibly hard at raising math scores a team effort! Please consider not cutting staff from magnet schools as we are working hard to collaborate for the education of each child. Thank you for listening.

Sharon L
Teacher in Native American charter school fears restructuring
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Our school has failed to meet AYP and is being visited by Cambridge Education to decide what measures should be taken. We are all stressed, wondering if we will keep our jobs since firing all the teachers is one of the options.

We are primarily a Native American charter school. Our school fills a niche for many students who have not succeeded in any other program. A large percentage of our students graduate, but many don’t count because they haven’t done it within a four-year timeframe. Many of our students come to us with a one- or two-year deficit in their education.

This school has not had a lot of consistency with teachers. Now, when it finally does, it looks as though we will all lose our jobs. We don’t know what the future holds for our students, our staff, and our school. If our school closes, many of our students will become drop-outs.

We remain hopeful, but it is an increasingly stressful situation. And with so many others in the same situation teachers losing jobs for restructuring or financial reasons the future is looking bleak.

Mississippi

Mary B
Everywhere I turn, a door is closing with slim hope
Olive Branch, Mississippi

I am working hard to become a teacher and have applied to all the local districts in my area. A year ago in special education I would have had no problem finding a job. Today, everywhere I turn, a door is closing with slim hope. I am highly qualified teacher!  I have friends who are teachers and teachers’ assistants. The district that I reside in has let go of teachers and assistants, reassigned teachers, given pay cuts, given teachers an increased classroom or caseload for special education teachers. The district also failed to recognize a teacher’s master’s degree and told laid off teachers’ assistants that if they want to be rehired in the future, they should sign a paper stating that they cannot collect unemployment. This is what is going on. We need something to change. Our kids are the ones that are going to suffer!

Missouri

Michael H
Going backwards financially shows education is undervalued
Smithville, Missouri

My job is not in jeopardy, but we are being funded at the 1998 level for next year. How can we maintain the level of education while going backwards financially?  I have to pay real-time dollars for what I buy, but am expected to provide education in past dollars worth much less.  We did not get a pay increase this year and probably won’t next year.  This approach does not encourage people to enter the teaching profession. We hear talk of how we teachers are failing, but look at the dollars and the message they send about how little we value education.

Leslie S
Left tenured position to be with her kids, laid off without warning
Kansas City, Missouri

I left a tenured position to come to the district where my kids are. On April 13th, after being reassured this would not happen, I was told I no longer have a position due to financial concerns, not my teaching ability. I came to the district with eight years of experience and have five children (three right now) who will go through the same schools.

I could understand being laid off because I performed poorly, but that was not the case at all. It came down to a number and I was told there was nothing I could do about it. I do not have a job for next year and no one is hiring. What do I do?

Nebraska

Robert S
Stop higher education layoffs, keep students in classes
Wayne, Nebraska

The Nebraska State College system has cut faculty and non-faculty jobs in the last biennium due to budget shortfalls. Recent continued shortfalls in state revenues have caused the governor and system to request another multimillion dollar budget cut. Without additional revenue, more jobs and services will be cut and increases in tuition and student fees are probable. I urge Congress to pass legislation to stop layoffs and keep students in classes.

Nevada

Mary B
Frustrated parent urges Senate to pass education jobs fund
Pahrump, Nevada

I am a FRUSTRATED parent of a child going into the 7th grade in the only middle school in our town. Nye County had to lay off 71 employees about 60 of them teachers this summer in order to attempt to meet our budget shortfall. Middle school classes will go from about 35 kids per class to 42. Our accelerated classes are in danger of being removed. The school is on the ‘needs improvement’ list due to not making AYP. Per the NCLB law, I should be able to enroll my daughter in a school that is making AYP. But we only have ONE middle school here, so now what? My daughter will be staying in a school that is in MORE danger of falling further behind due to so many kids in a class. This has to stop! I urge our legislators to pass this reform [education jobs fund] so we can try to hire back some of our teachers. Our children are doomed to an adulthood of being inadequately educated if this continues. We are setting them up to fail in college, in the workplace and in LIFE! Enough is enough!!!!

Laurie J
We will be a country of uneducated people
Reno, Nevada

With education going the way it is, imagine what our future business leaders and position holders will be like. We will be a country of uneducated people who can’t make change without a cash register or tell time unless we have a digital clock or cell phone. I am scared.

Wally J
Has NEA stopped trying to fix unfair Social Security provisions?
Reno, Nevada

Has NEA stopped trying to fix unfair Social Security provisions that deprive fired teachers in mid-career of the ability to reasonably coordinate their pensions with Social Security? These mean-spirited acts of Congress deprive former teachers (in 11 states, unless they have worked 30 years) of most of their earned Social Security benefits, and all of their spousal benefits.

Wendy W
Not fair to students
Pahrump, Nevada

It amazes me how many teacher jobs are being lost every year. Sadly it is the students who are hurt the most.

I have been teaching for seven years now, and I gave up my tenure in Las Vegas to move to a smaller rural town. In truth, I love it here.  I love working for Nye County School District.  The principals are amazing.  The parents are so receptive to everything and anything that will help their children.

Now after three years of being so happy in my job, I find that leaving my tenure in Las Vegas was the wrong thing to do.  Our district is more than six million dollars in the hole and is looking to cut at least 25 teachers. If union concessions are not made, then they are looking to cut an additional 25 teachers.

The first scenario puts class sizes at 30-36 students in the primary elementary grades. The second scenario is unthinkable. It is simply not fair to the students, teachers, or parents. The kids are our future, and clearly they are not the first priority in Nevada, but the last.

Forty-seven teachers were cut last year and now I am finding that I too will be out of a job. As my unemployed teacher friend says, “I never expected to get rich teaching, but I did expect to have a job!”

Becky T
Lack of support at home saps students’ motivation
Pahrump, Nevada

I work in a rural area with a high percentage of students with low socio-economic status. Many of my students are being raised by grandparents or great-grandparents because their parents are drug addicts or in prison.

Many times when I attempt to contact a parent, I dial all the numbers listed in the computer only to find they have been disconnected. When I do reach parents, they often blame me or my colleagues for their children’s failures. Lack of support at home manifests itself in students’ lack of motivation and success. As far as discipline goes, not much is allowed. When we follow procedures, nothing happens. Students are smart and know this is the situation. The result is a free-for-all atmosphere.

I don’t have a single student computer in my classroom. I don’t have the latest technology to aid in my teaching. I spend the $250 that is tax deductible before school even starts. I spent another $250 this month for relevant, up-to-date materials. Our assigned duties keep us actively working from the start of the day to the end, leaving no time for planning, parent contact, or grading students’ work. We get 15 minutes twice a week to collaborate on lessons and curriculum.

Saddest of all is the manic focus on standardized tests. We’re told to focus on students who are close to passing, which is a disservice to students who are gifted, as well as to students who have been passed along yet still lack basic skills.

I don’t understand how giving large amounts of money to two states the so-called Race to the Top is an improvement on No Child Left Behind.

New Hampshire

Paula S
Specialists are teachers who matter to children and their day
Hampton, New Hampshire

Jobs were eliminated in our district in the “specials” this year. At first 8 1/2 positions were eliminated, but the funds to cover all the positions were restored. So, the tactic became we don’t “need” these positions. Cuts remain in art, music, library, and technical education. Family and consumer science (to full-time), special education jobs (2) and one library position were restored recently.

Please support the “specialists” in their jobs. We are teachers too. We matter to children and their day. We are part of the education team.

New Jersey

Norma H
32 students at many levels is a challenge ideal class size is 25
Clifton, New Jersey

I’m a teacher in the Paterson school district. I have a combination class of 2nd and 3rd graders with a total of 32 students in my classroom. To begin with, I think that is a fire hazard. Besides having two grade levels, I have a range of levels in the classroom. There are children that don’t know how to read at all, not even in their native language. Then there are children who are struggling with comprehension. Others are on level and some are advanced. With such a large number of students and all the different levels, it is hard to bring them to safe harbor. I think the ideal number of students in a classroom is 25.

Jamie M
Students have control and basically do whatever they want
Springfield, New Jersey

I work for the Elizabeth New Jersey school district, where the superintendent makes over $200,000 a year and teachers are being told there will be no library or technology next year. Librarians are being moved back into the classroom. Today, I was told by the principal of my school that there will be 1,300 or more students in our building next year and classes will have 25 to 29 students.

I am being moved into 6th grade. Every time this district moves me into a position where I work with older students in a classroom setting I have been attacked. My blood pressure is an issue as well as the fact that I work in an enclosed, air-conditioned building that does not have windows that open. We are all breathing the same moldy, musty germ-ridden air on a daily basis. Requests for transfers out of this building are never granted because teachers don’t want to teach in this horrible environment.

I am supposed to use a behavior modification program that consists of students moving throughout the year on a daily basis from a green band (positive behavior) to a yellow band (becoming behavior problem) to a red band (behavior problem). This program is a waste of the $60,000 dollars that was paid to the social worker; it only works for students in grades K-3. The rest of the students remain out of control.

The principal never comes out of her office. The students have complete control and basically do whatever they want. I cannot retire for another couple of years. In the meantime, I will teach those that wish to learn.

Ellen S
Please don’t let students suffer
Nutley, New Jersey

I am a teacher at International High School in Paterson. I teach a very diverse and very needy population of students. The students are great but many are ESL students and have a hard time grasping the subject matter. (I teach English.) Many students, for varied reasons, do not have stable parental support at home and therefore a majority of their work MUST be done in class. Many students do not have access to computers or the Internet at home, which needs to be taken into consideration. I normally have 20-23 students in each class. If class sizes are increased, I cannot tell you how many students will fall between the cracks. I will no longer have the luxury of sitting for 2-3 minutes with a struggling student to go over instructions or offer some encouragement.

I have also read about possible cuts being made to the “free breakfast” program. MOST of my students receive free breakfast and lunch. Without the breakfast piece, student will sit in classrooms for nearly FOUR hours without having eaten all day. Before I started working in Paterson I used to think that at least the kids could have some cereal or toast at home’¦but THEY DON’T HAVE IT! It may seem hard to fathom, but sometimes it is just not there. Think about yourself. If you were FORCED to skip breakfast and go to work for four hours before you were given a “free lunch” consisting of a hamburger, apple and a cup of milk’¦would you be able to perform?

PLEASE don’t let these students suffer. You never know where the next CEO, teacher, or doctor will come from’¦but they need to have a fighting chance.

Mary S
Losing a dedicated educator is a loss for the entire community
Milford, New Jersey

I received my pink slip when I was in the middle of packing up my house to prepare to sell it. Now I cannot apply for a mortgage, since I have no job. With many, many others in the same boat and just two years left to retire, I have about a snowball’s chance in blazes of getting another position. While this is a catastrophe, I refuse to let it get me down. I have been through worse than this.

A colleague of mine always wanted to be a teacher, but her family talked her out of it. After many years in a computer career, she was diagnosed with cancer. After treatment and a clean bill of health, she had one of those life moments and decided that she would finally pursue a career in education. She sold her townhouse and used the money to get her degree and teaching certificate. Now she is out of a job, too. This woman is one of the most dedicated educators I have known in all my years in education. We’re talking Dream School candidate. Anyone would want her for their child’s teacher. I feel so badly about this, because a loss like that is a loss to the entire community.

There are stories like hers in just about every district. Our job as adults is to educate our children. The bad news is that our prisons are full of our failures!

Margaret R
Less hours, less pay, no benefits for 66 teaching assistants
Flemington, New Jersey

Our district in is proposing to fire all teaching assistants (66). They will then outsource our jobs to the Educational Service Commission, which will then offer us our jobs back for less hours, less pay, and no benefits.

Christine Z
800-plus teachers riffed
Paterson, New Jersey

800-plus teachers, child study team members, and other direct contact staff at the classroom level were just “riffed” from our district. Most of us are still in shock. We have close to 30,000 students. How can this be?

Lisa G
I am highly concerned about the reduction in music staff
Freehold, New Jersey

As a music teacher in my district for 11 years, I am highly concerned about the reduction in music staff. One of the instrumental music staff members was cut from that department and asked to take over a vocal music position vacated by a teacher who was let go in her third year. The vocal music teacher who was fired is a fine teacher who really connected with the students and knew her craft well. She is highly talented and her loss will have an impact on the department.

Now the instrumental music program has one less teacher and one less grade level is being serviced. Two middle schools share one teacher who is responsible for running 2 separate bands at 3 grade levels in each school that’s 4 bands, 2 sets of concerts (3 in each school each semester), a total of  12 concerts a year, 2 competitions, and 2 graduations.

Eliminating performing arts at the elementary level is going to lessen the students’ experiences. Outside of the general classroom, the students’ only real group-related ensemble performance experiences will be in middle school. This puts them behind their predecessors and also is a loss for public music education. The district population is considered “middle income” so many students may be able to afford to get lessons elsewhere, but many will certainly not. This puts the district in a “haves and have-nots” category. If you have the money to get instruction outside of school, you will have it. The other students will have less.

The impact on instrumental music will be staggering. In addition to losing a fantastic vocal music teacher, one of our top instrumental teachers has been moved out of a position where she was making a huge impact and her ensembles’ adjudication scores were rising to the highest levels. The instrumental department now has 2 teachers to service 7 schools. One of the other remaining instrumental music teachers will be servicing 5 schools, a different one each day. Imagine being in 5 school communities a week. Hopefully, she will learn all the students’ names, at least by the end of the year, and maybe they will learn something.

I find it appalling that the district found the money to keep a plethora of supervisors and teacher assistants, but could not justify one music teacher’s salary. The loss of veteran staff members to early retirement will also have an impact on the mentoring of teachers our schools require.

Anita C
Children may be hungry, dirty or abused, but they want to learn
Wyndmoor, New Jersey

I work in Camden, New Jersey, one of the highest crime cities in the United States. I see children that come to school hungry, dirty, and/or abused but just the same, wanting to learn. I know that so many of our children do not have parents who are able to help them at home. Many are living with grandparents or foster parents. Often I see children at the school as early as 7:30 a.m., when I get there, waiting to get breakfast.

Recently, an after-school program was cut because of funding. All the children who participated did not have any place to go. The streets are not safe. Right across from our school, we often have drug raids. Sometimes we have “shut down” no one is allowed in or out of the school because weapons are being fired.

Many of our teachers, including bilingual teachers, have received pink slips. I know that a high percentage of our population is Hispanic. We do not have enough qualified teachers to handle the population, yet we are losing some of our qualified staff.

Maureen N
Students suffer when they lose highly qualified teachers
Pompton Lakes, New Jersey

I am a tenured special education teacher in an urban elementary school in Paterson, New Jersey. I teach 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students to read and write. I love my job and feel that the students have made tremendous progress in these last four years. However, due to budget problems 800 positions will be cut. While I am being affected by this cut, I feel worse for my students who will suffer when they lose highly qualified teachers. I understand that accountability must be shared, but we were already understaffed and now there will be even less staff to support the most vulnerable students. Many students with special needs have difficulty adjusting to change and new staff. Our future generation depends on the decisions that you make today. Please think of our students and find another way.

Ivy P
I am dedicated to my students and know that I make a difference
Deptford, New Jersey

I have been a teacher and a librarian for 32 years now. I was informed in March that my position was being cut due to budget issues. I love my job and I always thought I would be able to choose when I retire. I am dedicated to my students and know that I make a difference and have a lot to offer. The layoffs and cuts add to unemployment and are devastating to educators. Something has to be done now.

Alanna S
Cuts in support staff are hurting special needs students
Collingswood, New Jersey

I am a special education teacher in the Greenwich Township School District. I have extensive specialty training in applied behavioral analysis, sensory input, writing effective IEPs applied to core curriculum content standards, and other areas, which I received during graduate studies at Holy Family, Rowan, and Temple Universities.

My district and many others in the area are laying off good teachers, along with much-needed support staff who have shown great compassion for my students providing free lunches for students who have had inadequate or spoiled lunches; allowing me to take lunch out of the cafeteria for students who cannot behaviorally comply with the rules; moving furniture, adaptive and therapy equipment to other schools; adapting bathroom facilities to meet my students’ needs; and paying out of their own pockets for pools and water play equipment for students during the extended school year program.

Most of the people who provide behind-the-scenes support for students such as transportation, food preparation, and making sure our schools are clean live in the town where they work. They do not have extended educations that would allow them to find employment elsewhere. Laying them off increases the town’s unemployment rate and has a trickle-down effect on small businesses and students’ overall education.

I have one student, in particular, who requires a one-to-one ratio to succeed and address his maladaptive behavior. Due to funding cuts, he is not receiving adequate support, which has severely impacted his education and the education of the other students in the classroom.

Just like me, many public school employees care deeply and have a compassionate heart. They perform their jobs every day not for just a pay check, but for the success, safety, and overall well-being of the students.

Elaine G
I am a paraprofessional, I love my students, and can’t be replaced by a temp
Edison, New Jersey

I have been a paraprofessional for 9 years. I have been hit, bitten, slapped, and punched repeatedly. After taking off my shoes, I chased a student across a field, stopping him before he entered the woods only to be kicked repeatedly in the shins with his timberland boots. I have crawled under a bathroom stall to get at a student with a meltdown, have rocked a student back to calmness, held his hand while he was afraid, pushed him to soar, wiped his tears when he was teased, talked him through his tests, got teary-eyed when he earned a good grade, and cheered him on in gym.

I am a paraprofessional and I love my students. How do you replace us with temps? Will the temp care? If something better comes along, that temp will bail. I refuse to bail. I am a paraprofessional!

Eileen B
I am in the job market and I can’t compete
South Orange, New Jersey

I was fired (along with half of the staff) from a start-up Catholic school in Newark. Some will roll their eyes and cluck their tongues at private schools, but what you’re thinking is not where I’m working. I have a BA in art history, which the state does not consider history, so my certification is taking longer than it should. So I can’t work in a public school.

The economy is awful, which adds to the pressure of getting a job. I am in the job market and I can’t compete. I’m 25. All I have to offer is 3 years experience, my enthusiasm, and a passion for teaching.

So what now? There is no real need to get my certificate, as there are no jobs in public schools. I have sent out over 30 resumes to private schools. I have barely started my career and I feel like all the possibilities are being taken from me.

Nel L
Food service director will be laid off or have salary cut in half
West Creek, New Jersey

I have worked in our school district for 21 years. I am currently the food service director.  My superintendent told my staff that we would always be secure in our jobs when other districts were going with food management companies. Then last June, we were told that our district is going with a food management company. The school board said it would retain me because I was so close to getting in my years. Now, with all the budget cuts, I must choose between being laid off and taking less than half my current salary. I am a single person trying to survive in this world. Now, after all these years with the school, I am going to have to go out and get an additional full-time job to pay my bills. It is a very depressing state of affairs.

Cheryl C
I am sad and angry about how we are perceived
Tabernacle, New Jersey

I have been a teacher since 1973. While I took time off to be at home with small children and then worked part-time in a private preschool, I returned to public education as soon as our family could handle a teaching Mom.

I remember the feeling of pride I felt each day as I walked down the halls of my school. I was elated to be back in public education.

These last few months, I have become disheartened, to say the least. Teachers have been compared to a whiny nine-year-old, chastised for asking students to bring budget information home to their parents, and then called upon to make sacrifices.

I work in one of the lowest paid districts in Burlington County, New Jersey. We have been asked to take a pay freeze to save our colleagues’ jobs and prevent destruction of our school district removing support for children and raising class size to an intolerable, unmanageable level. Agreeing to such a freeze permanently changes the pensions of colleagues about to retire and prevents co-workers receiving salaries comparable to those teachers receive in other districts. Working teachers will contribute 1.5% of our salaries toward benefits.

People who don’t work in education say we benefit from a wonderful pension. Let me make it clear that as a teacher who has 30 years of teaching experience (19 in public education), I make $54,000 gross. I certainly couldn’t afford to make the payments to retirement accounts that my private industry peers make.

Those who don’t work as teachers think I only work till 3 or 4 p.m. each day. Ask my family about late dinners and missed hockey games. Ask my students’ parents who get emails and phone calls from me at 9 p.m. I rarely leave the school building before 5 or 6 p.m. I work on weekends and during much of the summer to get ready for the next school year. Ask my husband how much of our income is spent on the children in my classroom. Every time funds for my classroom are cut, compensate by buying the needed items with my own money.

I am sad and angry about how we are perceived. Politicians are turning teacher against teacher, pitting teachers who are about to retire against young colleagues whose jobs are in jeopardy. But what bothers me most is that essential materials and personnel will not be available to the boys and girls I see each day in my classroom.

Will G
Teacher of the year in 2009, laid off in 2010
Oak Ridge, New Jersey

Well’¦ it happened. Got the email from the union head every single non-tenured teacher is getting cut. To throw salt in the wound, I am one “first-day-of-school” away from being tenured. In 2009, the first year of my eligibility, I was honored as my school’s teacher of the year. In 2010, I was laid off.

Victoria P
Teachers deserve to be acknowledged
Chesterfield, New Jersey

My daughter teaches kindergarten. She has been fortunate enough to have a class size of 20 and a full-day program. Now, her district has to consider larger classes and cutting programs vital to elementary students’ education. My daughter comes home from school and gets the whole family involved in crafts projects and organizing papers. Her work as an educator is never done and deserves to be acknowledged.

Trish H
I am forever a teacher!  It IS an honorable profession.
Lumberton, New Jersey

I am what I always wanted to be: a teacher. I became a teacher back in 1975 thanks to my own diligence and hard work, caring and helpful teachers, and the continuous, loving support of parents who taught me the value of working hard to reach your goals. Those who have not been ‘called to teach’ really can’t understand what we do. Even my father didn’t really get it until he saw me doing school work night after night, making phone calls to parents, striving to make our class and our school the best for our students.

The budget cuts in my district are devastating. Every teacher, principal and administrator with 3 or less years in our district which includes a middle school, a 5-6 building, and 6 elementary schools received a pink slip. So did every aide to a child, aide to a class, playground aide, lunch aide, custodian, secretary everyone who did not have tenure. And that was after we all worked together to pare down our budget and had basically no increase for property taxes in it.

Our budget was defeated and we are devastated. And it’s not over. More programs, teachers and departments are at risk. And I, after 31 years, after following all the rules, loving what I do, am between a rock and a hard place. “Teacher” has become a dirty word. But we’re really not the problem. We’re taxpayers, parents, and the people to whom other parents entrust their precious children.

I pray every day for every parent, town council member, community member, and state legislator to remember the teachers and other people who worked in their schools who made a difference in their lives.

I am forever a teacher!  It IS an honorable profession.

Tony G
Kids can’t learn in classes of 40-50 what we’ll have next year
Medford, New Jersey

Children should be the focus. Our classes will be 40-50 kids next year. How are kids going to learn in that environment?

Stacy Z
Budget cuts undermine student achievement
Denville, New Jersey

The district I work in has already lost 18 teachers, 29 paraprofessionals, all clubs, middle school sports, and two high school sports. We are still looking at additional cuts to our staff. This is going to be detrimental to the education of the students. While these cuts are being made, there is an expectation that the level of education will increase every year, according to No Child Left Behind. This is going to be an impossible task after all of these layoffs and cuts. As proved in a recent study, New Jersey’s schools score at the top of the nation in reading and math. Please help us keep this great honor and continue to provide the students of New Jersey with excellence in education.

Shellie H
Fewer teachers means larger classes
Mount Laurel, New Jersey

I am seeing young, ambitious, non-tenured teachers as well as teachers with tenure losing their jobs. Our communities’ students need these teachers. Fewer teachers will mean bigger classes. What will that do to the quality of education the students receive?

Sharon S
Eliminating counselors is a step backwards
Hackensack, New Jersey

I have been working as an educator in an elementary school for over 24 years. I was a classroom teacher for 14 of those years and truly enjoyed teaching 4th and 5th grade students. I was passionate about helping my students to love learning and to provide them with the skills needed to become lifetime learners.

I am now working as an elementary school counselor with children ages 5-12 years old. I am passionate about helping them to experience life as happy, productive youngsters who want to learn. I feel my job as an elementary counselor is like preventive medicine. By being available to address the emotional needs of children in this age group, I believe we are preventing bigger emotional problems when they are older.

Part of my job as an elementary counselor is to provide character education lessons and to address bullying with lessons as well. With the history of violence in schools that we have experienced in the last ten years, I truly feel that elementary counselors are needed. Most of the shootings and suicides that have occurred were found to be related to bullying at school. Isn’t it possible that if those students’ needs had been addressed earlier in school they may not have done what they did?

I feel strongly that addressing the mental health of students should start in our elementary schools. Our district is cutting many of the counselors at the elementary level due to budget cuts. Though I am not among the counselors who will be cut this year, I will have a larger caseload next year. As I have one school housed in two buildings which I already feel is more than I can effectively handle I cannot imagine how I will manage to be available to more than 587 students next year. I feel as if we are taking a step backwards in addressing what our students need.

Sharleen L
Have the moral courage to stand up for our rights
Bridgewater, New Jersey

I am a 56-year-old communications specialist with over 40 years of experience in the graphic arts field. For the past 14 years, I have worked as a graphic artist for the Somerset County Vocational and Technical School District in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

I designed and produced hundreds of catalogs, brochures, displays, newsletters, forms and ads for our district. In addition, I have been responsible for editing, proofreading, buying supplies and coordinating the printing for our district’s projects. Last year, I was sent for certification in digital forms production and was highly praised for my work, which promises to save the district a great deal of money and time in years to come. On April 20, 2010, after receiving an outstanding annual review, I was one of 21 employees fired from their positions.

I experienced a wide range of emotions ranging from shock to pain, fear and anger. I also felt a deep sense of disappointment and frustration. I do not feel that it is financially wise for the Somerset County Vocational School District (which I also support as a taxpayer) to invest thousands of dollars in educating me, only to turn around and eliminate my job when I am performing essential and valuable services.

After working for over 40 years in my field, I face the future without a job during the worst economic decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In July 2008, just a year and a half ago, after years of financial struggle as a divorced single mom (raising a daughter who is now a 28-year-old kindergarten teacher), I was finally able to purchase my  own home here in Somerset County, and now face the bleak prospect of losing it.

We, as a civilized society, need to stop trashing schools and other public institutions it took generations to build. I hope we can somehow save our schools by coming together and, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “have the moral courage to stand up for our rights.”

Samantha M
Grew up where she taught, wanted her children to do the same
Medford, New Jersey

I have been a teacher now for five years in the district that I grew up in. As a coach and special education teacher, I have devoted my time, knowledge, and love to my career. My husband also grew up and went to school in the district in which I teach. My husband is a Marine. Upon his return from Iraq, we purchased a home in my school’s district because we received such a great education growing up in this area and we wanted the same for our children some day.

Well, just last week, I received a letter from my school district telling me that I do not have a job next year. I was devastated! I love my job and I love knowing that I make a difference in my students’ and athletes’ lives. It is a shame that we are losing so many wonderful teachers who, like me, had hoped to help raise and educate the future leaders of our world.

Ruth-Ellen S
Teacher in Title I school hopes to be rehired by current district
Wayne, New Jersey

I have worked in numerous education positions over the years, many of which were not tenure-track positions. I have been laid off twice because of budget cuts once as a permanent substitute in a middle school and then from a teaching position after 2 years. Between those jobs, I was unemployed. While unemployed, I began and completed my second certification.

Now I am in a teaching position, where I have been for 2 years. Again, because of budget cuts, I have received a letter of non-renewal. Since I am a Title 1 teacher, my services to students is necessary and important.

I was hoping to finally achieve tenure. I am still hopeful that my position will be offered to me again. I would also be glad to accept a position in line with my second certification.

So that’s my story. I’m hoping that I will be rehired by the district where I now am.

Philip F
For the sake of our children, I pray that another solution will be found
Medford, New Jersey

I have been an educator and a coach for the past 17 years. After spending 14 years in the Black Horse Pike District, and receiving “Teacher of the Year” honors, I was given an opportunity to switch school districts and join the Lenape School District. I have been a teacher at Lenape High School for the past 3 years. I love being a teacher and coach and nothing is more rewarding for me than having students share with me that I made a difference in their lives, whether it be academically, on the field, or personally. This year, I was told that because of state cuts in education, I and about 200 other highly qualified educators are losing our jobs due to a reduction in force. Needless to say, this has caused me, my wife, and our 4 children a lot of anxiety. As a 40-year-old male who has been in education since I was 23 years old, what will I do? How will I make a living? How will my family live?

The funding of schools within the state of New Jersey has always been a problem. But to deplete public education across the state is not the solution. For the sake of our children, I pray that another solution will be found.

Melanie D
Please, please, please pass the bill to keep our educators working
Paramus, New Jersey

I am a first year teacher. I received my pink slip 2 weeks ago and I cannot begin to tell you how devastated I am to have to give up something I am so passionate about. Our children are the ones who are going to suffer and something needs to be done immediately to change this. Please, please, please pass the bill to keep our educators working. Without it, the future is looking grim!

Mark A
An uneducated population is a dangerous population
Haddon Township, New Jersey

It’s real simple … someone paid for everyone’s education, including the politicians. We need to pay for these kids to get an education. An uneducated population is a dangerous population. We can bail out Haiti but we can’t educate our own. It’s sad.

Lori P
Students outraged by cuts in Culinary Arts
Medford, New Jersey

I am a tenured Family and Consumer Science teacher. Half of my department received RIF notices in April. Our students are nothing less than outraged. Culinary Arts is the new “cool” of careers; the ‘rock star’ of careers, and the kids are INTERESTED! Please, please don’t take that away.

Lisa D
Those hurt the most by the cuts are our children, our future leaders
Landisville, New Jersey

I worked 17 years in Vineland School District in New Jersey. I recently took a job closer to home, in the district where my children go to school. By taking this job, I became non-tenured again. Now, I am in danger of losing my job.

My husband works for Local 351 IBEW, where over 500 men and women on the list for a job. Luckily, my husband has a job until July 1st, but after that he will be another one added to the list. If both of us are unemployed, we will have no choice but to sell the house we built 10 years ago and leave the state to look for work. I know I will not be able to find a job teaching in the state of New Jersey, especially with all the other teachers who were laid off. I do not want to uproot my children and move, but if we both are in need of a job, we will have to leave.

It makes upsets me to read newspaper stories criticizing teachers. School budgets are being cut until there is nothing left. Our own neighbors are against us. What the public doesn’t know is that some of my paycheck goes right back into my classroom. So far this year, I have paid for shoes, jeans, underclothes, food, birthday celebrations, behavior rewards, materials used to make bracelets to sell to raise money for Haiti, garden supplies and school supplies for the children in my classroom. Those hurt the most by the cuts are our children, our future leaders.

Kristi M
I am afraid I may not be able to support my family
Hammonton, New Jersey

My district in Sewell, New Jersey, is cutting two librarians, a music teacher, a gym teacher, nurse’s assistants, an art teacher and special education positions. This is in addition to reduced appropriations for classroom materials and field trips, and eliminating three classroom teaching positions through retirements. I am one of the educators who will not have a job next year due to these cuts.

New Jersey’s budget, like many other states’ budgets, jeopardizes current educational standards as well as the future. For the first time ever, I have begun to lament my decision to become an educator solely because I am afraid that I may not be able to support my family.

I love my job, and I know that I make a difference in the lives of my students. It breaks my heart to think that I may not be there next year to guide them in the use of the library. Instead, a single librarian will split her time among three different schools.

Jon G
Potentially catastrophic cuts in student assistance coordinators
Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey

On behalf of the Association of Student Assistance Professionals of New Jersey (ASAP-NJ), I am writing to alert you to of potentially catastrophic cuts in student assistance coordinators throughout our state. The cuts mean that there will be no one in the schools professionally equipped to deal with students experiencing substance abuse, mental health issues and other life crises. This will impact every child, because student assistance coordinators also serve as a resource to staff, administrators and students who are not at-risk. Parents will have no one to go to for support, advice and resources to get their children the best help possible in and out of school.

Jennifer C
I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference
Clark, New Jersey

I used to be a corrections officer. I left that field because I felt that it was too late to help the inmates, but not their children. In the fall of 2003, I went back to school and became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference. I paid my way through school again I already had a B.S. in criminal justice from Rutgers University.

I only applied to urban districts because after listening to mothers in jail, I felt that the education system failed them and the correction system just housed them for awhile and then sent them back out, still uneducated. I started in Irvington in 2005 and in 2008, once again started going back to school out of my own pocket to get my M.A. in special education.

As of yesterday, I can no longer help because I no longer have a job as a second grade teacher. When you love to teach it’s not about the money, but the love of the students. After this year I have to say goodbye to 75 students who I have taught over the past five years. I loved each of them like my own and only wanted them to do their best. I never thought, ‘Okay, this is my class for the year.’ Instead, I thought these are new members of my family for life.

Jeff S
I will gladly return the favor a teacher did for me 25 years ago
Dumont, New Jersey

My situation isn’t that I received a pink slip, but some of the new teachers did. I remember when I was in their position 25 years ago and a teacher retired early. This deed saved my position and I think it might be time to ‘pay it forward,’ so to speak. If the numbers work, I will gladly return the favor a teacher did for me 25 years ago. I have been teaching for 33 great years.

Irma N
Education is the foundation of our society
Berlin, New Jersey

Never in my dreams of becoming a teacher did I think my career would end in disaster. I have a passion for teaching, for helping students who depend on me. I can’t count the times I went into my own pocket to make sure the students had what they needed, even though I live paycheck to paycheck. Now I find myself living alone and unemployed, with no money coming in. Education is the foundation of our society. Don’t let it go to the private sector that is not where it is meant to be.

Eliu P
We are being thrown out because we cost too much
North Bergen, New Jersey

I have worked as a Native Spanish AP teacher in schools for almost 7 years. I just received my RIF letter. According to my principal, my job will be eliminated next year because there isn’t enough money in next year’s world languages budget to fund it. Three other Spanish teachers in my school have also been told that their jobs are gone next year. Our replacements will be paid by the hour and receive no benefits, so their salaries are lower. They will have to be trained in what has been second nature to us for years.

We are heartbroken to leave our teachers, our students and our school home. It has been wonderful to watch our students as they grow from 9 to 12th grade. Now, we are being thrown out because we cost too much. It’s just not right.

Deana L
I fear for my grandson’s educational future
Somerset, New Jersey

New Jersey has some of the highest-ranked public schools in the country, thanks to the teachers and support staff who are working in our schools. Now, many of these professionals are either being forced to retire or getting pink slips. I fear for my grandson’s educational future and what they are doing to public education in our state.

Anthony M
Cutting funding for schools will hurt students the most
Dennis Township, New Jersey

I teach 5th grade special education. I have been teaching for 3 years now, but as this is my first year in this district, I have received my pink slip as a non-tenured teacher. Twelve of my colleagues are also out of work for next year.

New Jersey has cut state aid in an attempt to balance the budget, but at the same time we are trying to make New Jersey more attractive for businesses. I’m not sure how these two things square. Cutting state aid and laying off thousands of teachers will mean larger classes, less attention for struggling students, and no funding for technology not the way to produce students to work and succeed in a high-tech marketplace.

New Jerseyans already pay high taxes and one of the benefits of doing so was great schools. Now, what will we have to show for those high taxes? Why bother staying in the state? Cutting funding for schools will hurt students the most. As for me and many of my colleagues, we will have to leave the state to find teaching jobs I hope somewhere more stable where policy and funding are based on rational decisions.

Ann M
It scares me to think where this next generation is headed
Burlington, New Jersey

I am 3 months short of 10 years in my school district and am losing both my part-time jobs one because the state superintendant claims I cannot provide help in basic skills without teaching a credential and the other because cuts need to be made. I receive no preps, no lunch, no benefits. I have helped many students with their reading and math skills (I worked in accounting for 18 years prior to this position, and have been able to read since starting school many years ago) and also with their people skills (I am a very fair and dedicated person in my cafeteria position). All of this is happening because some schools have been wasteful; mine is not among them. It scares me to think where this next generation is headed.

Angela G
Education should be the very last thing on the chopping block
Sewell, New Jersey

I am a retired high school teacher. I know that the school in which I taught has just eliminated several important positions in teaching. I know the people who have been cut personally and I feel so badly for them. So many dedicated teachers are looking at unemployment. Jobs are being tossed aside as if education is not important. Education should be the very last thing on the chopping block. Without a decent education, our children do not have a fighting chance for their future. Let’s respect our children. Let’s not let their valuable minds go to waste. Let’s fight for education!

Birdie C
Fearful for the future her own and her students
Livingston, New Jersey

My elementary teachers were wonderful. I still remember how they made me feel loved and how they listened to my random comments and thoughts I wanted to share.  I remember visiting my kindergarten teacher after I entered middle school and how good it felt when she still remembered me and cared about who I was becoming.

Now, in my second year as a third-grade teacher, I try to do the same for my own students. I am constantly amazed by how they overcome personal difficulties and show me what they can do.  Teaching one child giving just one student the confidence, ability, and belief that she can do something makes my day successful.

Teaching has never been an easy job or a profitable career, which says a lot about the priorities of the government. But I never dreamed that I would lose my job after working so hard to get here.

Even knowing that I don’t have a job next year, I can’t give up or stop working. If I were working in any other field, no one would blame if I complained for not getting a raise or called in sick. Instead, I work even harder to make sure my students are prepared for their lives when they leave my classroom.  I feel guilty if I need to use one of my three allotted personal days for the year.

I teach students who need more attention because they can’t get it at home. These are the students who don’t learn concepts the first time or who learn differently from others. These are the students who will be placed in an overcrowded classroom with a shortage of materials and an overworked teacher.  These are the students who get swept under the rug and have gaps in their education.

I am no longer certain of the future. I do not know if I will be able to support myself. If I cannot find a job, my debt will continue to rise despite all my careful planning.

The next few years will not be easy, but the next few decades will be worse. When the current generation grows up, we will feel the true effects of what are doing to those who will one day be taking care of us. I hope those in a position to do so think about the consequences of what they are doing to our children.

Felice W
Budget cuts hurt those most in need of help
Rockaway, New Jersey

With four team members and a full-time director, we can’t provide the services our students and teachers need. At the end of this school year, our child study team which serves two pre-K to 8 districts will be disbanded, along with the team for a third pre-K to 8 district.

The plan is for three full-time team members to serve all three districts: one social worker instead of two, one psychologist instead of two, one LDTC [Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant] instead of three, and one part-time director instead of one-full time and one part-time director. This arrangement will drastically reduce the level of service to students, teachers, and families.

Students will be hurt as they can’t possibly get the care they need. Staff will be hurt as there will be no one to assist with difficult students. Who wins here? Not those losing jobs, not those ‘lucky enough’ to get one of the three new jobs, not the students or their families. I just don’t understand how this is good for anyone or why the state and the board of education think this is a good plan. Do you?

Janet D
Teachers are not one-size-fits-all
Burlington Township, New Jersey

 

Our district has grown rapidly over the last 15 years, which has made it an exciting and diverse place to raise a family and educate children. The downside is the timing it has coincided with difficult economic times for our state and country. We have ‘pinched every penny’ to bring our students every possible opportunity for academic, creative, and social growth. And now, fiscal responsibility has put us in a position where staff is the only place left to cut in the current budget crisis. The budget we are presenting to the voters on April 20th has an average of two teachers fewer teachers at every level in grades K-12. This will increase class size by 20 to 25 percent.

I am the regular education teacher in a third-grade resource room that also has a  special education teacher. The 20 students in our room have a variety of needs everything from special education programs to meet IEPs to enrichment lessons to meet the needs of the gifted students. I happily spend long hours trying to meet the needs of all of these students and help them grow, but am expecting a pink slip at any time due to budget cuts next year.

My position will be filled by a qualified and experienced teacher, but not one who has chosen to take on the additional challenge of our setting. I believe whoever replaces me will learn to love this setting as much as I do. But the first year, at least, will be chaotic and potentially devastating to our students. Teachers, just like students, are not ‘one-size-fits-all,’ but rise to the top in the right environment. This crisis will force many teachers to teach new grades and subjects in new settings without adequate professional or emotional preparation. Without immediate action, my story will be repeated in classrooms throughout our district, state, and country.

MaryAnn B
Cutting full-day kindergarten is counterproductive
Old Bridge, New Jersey

 

As a Mom, taxpayer, and educator, I find myself in a precarious position. I am being asked to leave a position I love and am passionate about: teaching full-day kindergarten. The children I teach are little ‘sponges’ they have been reading and writing for months. Because of the cuts, kindergarten could go back to half a day, which would weaken the foundation all educators are trying to build.

Please help me and all teachers in our quest to continue feeding the minds of young children. Driving teachers out of the classroom will only cause unemployment rates to skyrocket and property values to plummet. None of us achieve our desired station in life without good teachers. Keep us there!

Marvin F
14 physics teachers for 16 schools something is wrong
Fair Lawn, New Jersey

I teach high school physics in an urban district. Since I am new to the district, and they have to save money, I expect a pink slip. I have been told by someone in a position to know that the district has 14 physics teachers and 16 high schools. There is something wrong with this picture.

Meredith B
All children need a good education
West Deptford, New Jersey

I am a high school librarian who recently learned that my school district has eliminated my position. For at least seven years, I (and the librarian before me) have told been administrators the library media center is understaffed. Instead of moving forward, we are falling so far behind there is little hope of catching up. Next year, one librarian will need to cover both the middle and high school.

We expect our students to be prepared for the 21st century, but are not provided with the resources necessary to prepare them. Polls and studies show that new grads are not meeting employers’ expectations. Yet politicians in my state and across the nation seem to see schools as expendable budget line items. Something is amiss.

I worry about what my students will miss next year and the year after that. I worry about the state of the school system where I live and what it will be like for my 19-month-old son. I worry what will happen to a society where education is not valued. To compete in the world and lead other nations, we need to support all areas of education, not just one or two. To do better as a society, we need to provide a good education for all our children.

New Mexico

Dawn U
Let’s make kids a priority by keeping class sizes reasonable
Deming, New Mexico

This year as a teacher has been bittersweet. I received the most awesome bunch of 5 year olds I have had in my 8 years as a kindergarten teacher. All but two achieved at or beyond the expected academic goals set by New Mexico state standards. However, two students who really needed more of my time and expertise did not fully benefit due to a crowded classroom that exceeded the 20-student recommended limit. This year, 24 students depended on me to educate them and provide the nurturing care that they deserve as they begin school. Though I felt frazzled and frustrated with all of the demands, I was still somehow recognized for my efforts as ‘educator of the year.’ With classroom sizes increasing, I am considering withdrawing as a kindergarten teacher. Let’s be fair to our kids and make them a priority by keeping classroom sizes reasonable, regardless of the economic times. If we skimp on them, what will our future look like down the road?

Kevin K
Penny wise … pound foolish
Albuquerque, New Mexico

I am a 7th grade social studies teacher. Yesterday, I was told I would be teaching the New Mexico history class formerly taught by two teachers. The increased class size will negatively impact educational outcomes for all my students, especially special education students. Test scores will probably drop, and my school and the district will likely no longer be in compliance with state and federal law. Lawsuits from parents, a logical result of the district’s failure to comply with IEP requirements, will cost far more than the salary of the teacher we lost. Penny wise … pound foolish.

Cindy S
If classes had been smaller, I would be a better reader and speller
Las Vegas, New Mexico

I am a special educational assistant for Fast ForWord, a program for English-language learners. I now work only with elementary schools. I used to work with middle and high schools, but that budget has been cut and so has the program.

It is sad to think that we are here to help our children but can’t. I will likely take a cut in pay just so I can stay and help the students. I feel strongly that the programs we have are great. But I do not understand why we adopt new books so often. Why can’t we just use the books we have?

If classes had been smaller when I went to school, I would be a better reader and speller today. Now that schools are cutting teachers and aides, how are students going to learn?

Deborah R
Overcrowded classroom endanger children
Las Cruces, New Mexico

I am a tier III master teacher in an elementary school, where I teach first grade. We have been told that if we were planning on leaving the school, please do, so the principal does not have to reduce our team by four!

Last year at our school, the third grade had only three teachers for over 80 children!  Those kids had a terrible year. The teachers had a terrible year. One teacher told me, ‘I went home last night and realized I had not talked to two of my students all day!’

That teacher’s class was so full it was unsafe. The staff could see this and yet, what could be done? The children had to have a place to sit. One day, a substitute teacher who was not used to such conditions twisted her knee in a fall to the floor. She was wedged in so tightly, desks and furniture had to be removed before the EMT could rescue her. Is an environment like this conducive to learning?

It is so demoralizing to be a dedicated teacher unable to spread yourself thin enough to do what you know your students need. I am so happy to teach. Twelve years ago when I had just begun teaching, I received my first paycheck and wept for joy because I was being paid to do something I so loved being a part of. Now I feel that in the very near future, I will have to resign because I cannot morally be responsible for the way children are being treated in our schools.

New York

Dan B
One class of 40 not equal to two classes of 20 each
Schenectady, New York

Since 2002, I have taught in a variety of contexts: Sunday school, GED classes at the county jail, a program for children under suspension from middle- and high school. In 2007, I got my master’s degree in education and was certified as a classroom teacher in New York State. I have been trying get a full-time teaching position ever since. I have tried to make a name for myself by becoming a substitute teacher for next to no money. Principals at the schools where I sub have told me they would hire me, but they don’t have money to do so.

Now, with schools closing and teachers getting laid off, I am forced to look to another field for work. Many thousands of people are in exactly my position: teachers of excellence who are discouraged from teaching.

Not everyone can teach well. I have proven myself time and again as a teacher, so it follows that I should be teaching. Every time a teacher is laid off, the life of a dedicated professional is disrupted. Families are disrupted. Plans are put on hold and changed to create a life that does not involve full-time teaching. This is a waste of my training and experience as a teacher. But I have a family to feed and support, and cannot wait for someone in Washington to realize that cutting education is no way to balance a budget. Education needs to be fully funded, not scaled back to save a buck.

And the children? When teachers are laid off, it is the children who really lose. One classroom with 40 children is not the same as two classrooms with 20 children each. Study after study shows that children learn better in smaller classes, but when teachers are cut larger classes are the inevitable result.

Our children are the only future we have. Are we serving them well?

North Carolina

Victoria R
Class size has doubled
Goldsboro, North Carolina

This affects my colleagues at this time. Last year they had 16 students. This year they have 30 students and no instructional assistant. I am in a More@Four class and one class was lost last year.

Theresa Z
Stand up and listen to teachers!
Charlotte, North Carolina

Last year, 300 teachers and teacher assistants were laid off. My class of 26 is not large by some standards. However, I am expected to have the same interaction, same detailed records, and same level of work done as when I had a full-time assistant, 20 students, and materials that my students’ needs.

I have been able to stretch myself as most workers in America have done. What worries me is that the district is no longer accountable for providing basic materials, teacher training, or resources to improve education. Instead, it is up to the teacher. Due to funding cuts, our district is not purchasing the portion of the reading program for K-1. I must fund my own materials or possibly lose my job.

On top of that, teachers are being let go. Stack a classroom with 30 to 40 students, provide no materials, and if students do not show adequate progress, the teacher will lose his/her job. This logic is like telling a quarterback, ‘We expect you to have the same record as last year. But due to some funding cuts, you won’t have a front line and we had to let the halfbacks and wide receivers go. Now, go out there and give it all you’ve got. America is counting on you!’

I understand the tough economy. I do not want sympathy if I lose my job. But I do want politicians to understand that they’re hurting our children. What makes schools successful? It is as simple as ABC: academic excellence, books and materials distributed equitably among schools, and classrooms with a low student-teacher ratio.

Stand up and listen to teachers! Do not let public schools collapse.

Donna T
Get priorities in order, get back to valuing education
Lenoir, North Carolina

I lost my job two years ago. I was hired to fill an overflow position and at the end of the year the budget was cut. No one was willing to pay the added expense for a teacher with a Master’s Degree and nine years experience. Any openings that came about have been filled either with transfers or new graduates. I did not have tenure in the county that I was teaching in, so I was simply let go. I have applied for over 200 jobs in North Carolina and other states. I really need a job now as my husband’s company just moved to Mexico and he is out of work.

It used to be that being a teacher was a ‘safe’ career. You got a job and stayed in the system until you retired. Not true anymore. I would even be willing to take a $10,000 pay cut just to be hired. My family is hurting due to these cuts. But more importantly, children all over are being hurt. We must get our priorities in order and get back to valuing education.

North Dakota

Kandy K
Advocate for teachers in adult education as well as teachers in K-12
Bismarck, North Dakota

I have been teaching at an adult learning center for the past 15 years and am six years away from retirement. We receive grant monies from the federal government and we received a 25% cut this year and a 10% cut last year. That will mean that at least two out of four teaching positions will be cut and I am second in line. Each year, federal funding for adult education either remains the same or it is cut. NEA needs to advocate for teachers in adult education as well as teachers in K-12.

Ohio

Melissa J
I feel like someone has stabbed me in the heart
Medina, Ohio

I’ve worked at Black River Local Schools in Sullivan, Ohio for 11 years as an elementary art teacher and was given the pink slip at the end of April. My school has chosen to replace me with a K-8 elementary teacher. I have an art education degree and license in visual art K-12. It is so disheartening to be replaced by someone who doesn’t have the experience or credentials to teach art. I feel like someone has stabbed me in the heart it is terrible!

My school has also laid off 14 other teachers some with 10, 8 and 7 years experience. They have cut 20% of our teachers 1 in 5. Next year, we will have fewer special education teachers, bigger classes, no certified art teacher, and no certified physical education teacher. Many paraprofessionals have also been cut, some of whom have 10 years of experience.

Most parents have no idea of all the cuts. The ones who will really suffer are the students of Black River Local schools.

Karin L
Drastic program cuts will harm students
Kettering, Ohio

I have been teaching at my school for 18 years. My school is in a poor district that has not passed a levy for new money in 15 years. Professional development was cut by 65% and we also face material budget cuts. A ban on buying new text books is in effect for the next 10 years, and some departments are getting short of books. A levy that could pass this fall will cut all AP and psychology classes, the vocational electives (industrial tech classes, Family and Consumer Science, and career classes), agricultural education, and an award-winning ROTC program.

Our school is 10-25% special education, and the special education teachers worry about what their students will take for classes. More students will be in study hall, and the students who do better with hands-on classes are being left behind. While there is not an official cut list out yet, the proposed version is drastic. All our jobs could be cut this summer.

Monique W
Getting discouraged after years of refusing to give up her dream
Columbus, Ohio

I went back to college after getting married and having my second child. I made myself a promise prior to marriage that I would go back to school by my 25th birthday and finish what I started as a teenager. I was unable to make that deadline, but I refused to give up my dream. Therefore, I quit my full-time job and worked on campus so that I could go to school full-time. In December of 2004 I graduated with honors and gave the graduation speech.

I have received a “pink slip” for the past two years. Last year, it was looming over my head as a possibility all year with the thought that if the district’s levy passed, I would be retained. It did not pass and several of us were let go. The district did try to recall me towards the end of the summer after I made another commitment; therefore, I had to resign from my prior district or face burning a professional bridge. As a result, I moved into an even larger urban school district for the current academic year. Just a few months into the year, we found out that our school ‘might’ close at the end of the school year. Well, it moved from a possibility to a sure thing. Even that wasn’t so bad because I knew that the district was going through a large job posting/interview process for the teachers who were displaced. So, I kept my head up and continued to lead my students towards success.

I went through the interview process at several schools and signed a letter of intent, and then, one Friday after teaching for a full day and getting the kids through the state standardized tests, I learned I had been laid off along with many others in my district.  I was so angry: Why was I allowed to go through the first round of postings and get a new job for the following year just to have it taken from me? I admit, it is difficult to continue to teach after such a blow, but it is in my nature to give everything I do my best effort.

What did I earn the degree for? Why am I still attending college when I do not have a position for next year? Some days I just have to teach through the pain. Other days, I have peers trying to encourage me to wait it out. I hear the same thing every day, ‘Just wait, you will get recalled.’ Or, ‘You can work anywhere for a year.’

Here is the reality: I do not want to work just anywhere. I want to be in a position where I can hone my skills as a teacher and move up in the ranks. It is pretty much impossible to move into a lead position when you are the lowest in seniority every year. Along with that, how much of a highly qualified teacher am I being for the students when I am constantly looking for the next job so my family doesn’t go hungry?

Suzan I
Without teachers to teach our children, reform is meaningless
Cleveland, Ohio

I teach in a small Cleveland suburb with a large minority population facing great economic stress. It is always the minority communities that feel the biggest bite during economic recessions. Our district is closing two out of six schools to close a $1.8 million dollar deficit. Twenty-six teachers out of 176 received pink slips. Classes will be getting bigger; 5th graders will be going to middle school with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Parents are outraged. Morale among teachers is very low. We are trying our hardest to maintain normalcy in the classroom until the end of the school year. But we need help from our government. Without teachers to teach our children, talk of reform and innovation is meaningless.

Daniel J
Laid off music teacher started community orchestra program
Copley, Ohio

In 2003, my position as orchestra director and general music teacher was eliminated as a result of increasing lack of funds. At that time, the school system also made the decision to allow the Latin program to die over the next 3 years due to the same problem.

In order to give my string students a performance opportunity, I began a local community orchestra program.  This orchestra still exists and performs several concerts a year. The school program was never replaced.

Those future Latin students had no such an opportunity to study that language.  This lack will greatly affect future doctors and lawyers from this community.

Joanne K
A dedicated teacher of 35 years
Canton, Ohio

I am a dedicated teacher of 35 years, a National Board Certified Language Arts teacher with an M.Ed. and many, many hours of additional certification.

I worry about keeping my teaching job a job I love. Aid to our school district has been cut by over $1.9 million. We have 1930s buildings with drinking fountains and toilets that don’t work. The toilets are so old we can’t get parts to fix them, and we certainly do not have the money to replace them.

If Congress is afraid the money will be used for teachers’ salaries, why not pay for utilities, school buses, computers, updating electrical systems, repairing leaky roofs?

If you think teachers are at the source of our students’ failures, visit me or any teacher. Spend the day. I guarantee that you will be exhausted, frustrated, yet amazingly satisfied with your experience. I cannot count the number of times students face us down and say, ‘I ain’t readin’ no book.’ But I still love my job.

Don’t blame my union. Don’t blame my colleagues. See for yourselves how it is.

Oklahoma

Linda L
Larger classes will hurt the youngest kids the most
Bessie, Oklahoma

I am a 20-year veteran teacher with a master’s degree. My current temporary contract has not been renewed due to the education cuts nationally, state and locally.

These cuts will hurt the youngest kids the most pre-K to 5th grade, where they learn to read and write. Classes will be larger and we will have no assistants to help, causing an increase in discipline problems and lower test scores due to less attention from the teacher.

I taught for 16 years with the Oklahoma City Public School system and had to move when my husband chose to become a minister in western Oklahoma. I have been on temporary contracts most of the last 5 years. I currently have a 75-mile commute one way. I have not been able to get a job closer to home because the districts prefer you to substitute (or see if you fit in) for about a year, which I can’t afford to do. Plus I am considered an outsider because I didn’t grow up here and go through the system.

Although I love to teach and consider myself a good teacher, at age 52 I will probably have to find a different career. I am not looking forward to that, but will plug along for as long as it takes.

Wendy S
If you cut the budget, the future is what is going to hurt
Edmond, Oklahoma

Three days ago, I lost my dream job as an elementary school counselor. I was a new employee this year even though I had seven years of experience in other districts. There are no jobs out there for school counselors! I have a master’s degree from Virginia Tech University, where I had a 4.0 GPA, and passed all of Oklahoma’s certification exams. Now, none of it matters.

If you cut the budget, the future is what is going to hurt. Our children need education and personal/social support. Please do not let our youth suffer because they have no one to talk to about their problems and too few teachers to help support them.

Robyn B
Cuts put children in an unsafe situation
Eufaula, Oklahoma

Our district is eliminating a librarian position. As elementary librarian (and the one with the most tenure), I chose to go to a 1st grade classroom; the high school librarian will be reassigned to the elementary school, and the high school and middle school libraries (in two separate buildings) will be served by one person. The most discouraging change, though, is the elimination of our elementary art program. The elementary music and physical education teachers will have classes of 40-50 students and the physical education assistant position is being eliminated. I believe these cuts put the children in an unsafe situation.

Tara H
Teachers do more than teach. We care about our students.
Pryor, Oklahoma

I am a math teacher of 10 years who is getting laid off due to budget cuts. I became a teacher because I believe that I can impact students’ lives. Teachers do more than teach. We care about our students. We interact with them daily and help them make the right choices.

Jane Doe asks, “Can I come in at lunch tomorrow for help?”

What I hear: ‘I am having a hard time right now. I am hurt and my self-esteem is low. I need to know that someone cares.’

John Doe’s Mom collapsed and died in front of him two months ago. He lives in foster care and now is in our school. He said that he didn’t understand the homework last night and that’s why he didn’t do it.

What I hear: ‘Math and school are not important right now. Who cares? I am hurting, alone and lost. I need someone to love and care about me. I miss my Mom.’

I asked Jane Doe, a 7th grade student, to fill out an envelope with her mother’s name and address to send home a failing grade notification. She filled out everything that was required except her mother’s last name and explained, ‘I don’t know what my Mom’s last name is right now.’

What I hear: ‘My Mom and I don’t communicate. I am not a priority in her life. I don’t know what’s going on in her life and she doesn’t care what’s going on in mine.’

I called John Doe’s dad to discuss his son’s grade and come up with a plan to help his child become more successful. His response? ‘I’m ready to send ‘˜John’ away. I’m done with him. He is worthless. I have to remind him every day to feed the dogs. Every day!!’

What I hear: ‘Caring for my child and raising him to be a responsible member of society is too much for me. I don’t like being a Dad and I don’t think my son is worth my time.’

I am one of the 5,000 teachers in the state of Oklahoma who will be unemployed at the end of the school year. Will these children be heard in next year’s over-sized classes? Will their teachers have the time to care and to let them know they are cared for?

Oregon

Janet S
Education funding should be a top priority
Salem, Oregon

We are facing some tough times here in Oregon. Our state funding is always scary but this coming biennium is looking especially grim. We are in ‘conversations’ with our district right now to determine how our members can help repair the budget damage done by our funding shortfall by giving up paid days, cost of living increases, step increases, etc. Our health insurance premiums have more than doubled from last year. But many members say that they would rather lose a day of pay than lose a coworker, despite the fact that many of them work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

How much more can we continue to give? How much should students be expected to give? Education funding should be a top priority.

Patricia E
Class size has grown to an outlandish 45 students
Sheridan, Oregon

My youngest granddaughter, who teaches kindergarten, first grade, and second grade, has been laid off. She is desperately seeking a job.

My oldest granddaughter has been employed by an elementary school for 8 years, and her class size has grown to the outlandish number of 45 students. This fall, she will be required to teach a mixed class of 3rd and 4th graders. Just think of such a task!!!  Teachers are valuable since our children learn from them and, ultimately, our children are really our best asset. PLEASE DO NOT CUT EDUCATION FUNDING. PLEASE!!!  Few administrators in school districts are losing THEIR jobs, while teachers ARE. This is WRONG. The foxes are emptying the hen-houses and the chicks will suffer!!!!

Cynthia M
At-risk students in Title I schools hit hard by counselor layoffs
Portland, Oregon

In the latest round of budget cuts, our school district is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place: cut more than 120 employees or cut 15 days of school, or some unhappy compromise between the two. Mind you, this is on top of last year’s cuts, which have left the remaining staff stretched far too thin. Nurses and counselors, among others, are potentially being cut.

At the two Title I schools where I have taught in our district, the thought of losing the school counselor makes my blood run cold. The high-needs students at both schools rely on the counselors to support them through so many rough patches; the teachers rely on added counseling support to help students have the capacity to focus on learning despite hardships at home.

No matter how I try to imagine the outcome of this latest round, I shudder increased class sizes, loss of programs, loss of support. Meanwhile, we are constantly being asked to raise our students to new levels, to close the achievement gap and ensure that no child is left behind. Teachers are only human, and there is only so far we can be stretched before we break.

Julia W
Today’s cuts will affect our children as adults
Happy Valley, Oregon

I work for the David Douglas School District in Portland, Oregon. Our poverty rate is somewhere around 70% and we have a very diverse student population over 60 languages are spoken. Our schools have done so much for these students, including help with clothing, meals (even snacks), and school supplies.

We have not had to cut any programs until this year. Now, we face not only the “usual” daily challenge with students, we face being unable to provide simple communication with parents, not having enough support for our students, and having larger classes with little one-on-one time with the teacher.

I worry about how next year and the year after that will affect our students. They have a lot of struggles already and we will be adding more. They are our future. Today’s cuts will affect our children as adults 10 and 20 years from now.

Pennsylvania

Denise G
Alleged improvements lower educational quality
Easton, Pennsylvania

In my Easton school district, we have cut over 70 educators’ jobs. While the district claims the cuts were made to improve alignment of the curriculum, we are actually facing a financial dilemma due to over-building, increased educator salaries, and overall poor management of the budget.

So far, improved alignment of the curriculum has meant moving some advanced placement classes to a community college, where they are out of reach to many students. The music program taken by 70% of high school honors students has been cut back. Educators, administrators, and students of this school district will be scrambling all summer to make these alleged improvements. The 2010-11 school year will be a confusing and in no way be better for any student.

Tabatha B
Tying teachers’ jobs to student performance NOT a good idea
Wynecote, Pennsylvania

I currently teach a large number of students who have learning disabilities, individual education plans, English as a second language, and very low academic ability. Most of the students I teach are from urban single parent homes, foster care, etc. I CHOOSE to teach these kids because I can reach them, help them, improve their academics, and better prepare them for life outside of high school. Some of my students possibly should not have been passed through elementary school. But they were and now they are in my classes. If my job is in jeopardy because they are below grade level or do not perform well on standardized tests or this is the basis for determining my pay then why would I CHOOSE to teach such students? If I do not teach them, who will? They are the most challenging students and require the most innovative teaching methods. How will they grow as students and citizens if no teacher wants them?

Mindy A
ESPs’ jobs are being outsourced
Levittown, Pennsylvania

I am president of a local of 540 support staff in a school district in Pennsylvania. The district claims it is $14 million in debt. Our teachers have been without a contract for two school years and support staff since July 1, 2009.

The district is planning to outsource our jobs, leaving over 250 workers unemployed. At least 85% of our support staff have children in the schools and homes in the district, and pay taxes to support our schools. We give back to the community we live in and now we may not be able to live there.

It is a sad day when workers dedicated to children could lose everything they have worked for. Some, like myself, have worked for the district for 15 years or more. Please help save our community workers’ jobs.

South Carolina

Eileen F
Nothing left to cut
Summerville, South Carolina

I used to be an NEA member in the union state of Pennsylvania. I now live in South Carolina, a non-union state, and we are suffering because of it.

Every teacher is afraid that she will be the next to be let go, so we are putting in 10 hour days. It is not uncommon for one of us to say, ‘I didn’t even get lunch today.’ The administration looks at us with a total lack of empathy, as if we are lazy and don’t deserve lunch in the first place.

Teachers must pay for paper out of their own pockets or stop using it. Teachers pay for the ink for computer printers as well. This may sound like a small expense, but when individualized reports must be printed, it is quite easy to go through a $25 cartridge in a month or less.

Our schools have budgets the size of large businesses, but we do not have the same resources as businesses. Our technology will fall by the wayside if our building’s information technology staff does not return next year. Kindergartens already have 27 or 28 students, and upper elementary school classes 29 or 30 students. Yet our aides may be taken from us.

If teachers are laid off, class size will escalate and educational quality will plummet. I am a mother of four and fear for the educational quality of my children’s classrooms next year. My district is not affluent but uses its dollars VERY frugally and wisely. In a district like mine, there isn’t any place left to cut. We have the third smallest budget and second best results in the state. We are functioning on a shoe string. Please help us.

Monica W
1995 budget doesn’t cut it in 2010
Lugoff, South Carolina

I have been teaching for 15 years and have never seen such rough times. Four people have been moved from our school to a different school. Luckily, they didn’t have to lose their jobs, but they did have to leave our school. They were wonderful people. I have had $116 taken out of my check due to furlough days. I need that money to support myself and my three-year-old daughter. South Carolina continues to make budget cuts instead of increasing the cigarette tax or property taxes. We have been told that next year, the size of our classes will increase and we may have more furlough days. Next year’s budget is what we had in 1995. We need a 2010 budget or we will lose all the progress we’ve made. Please help us in South Carolina and all the states in America!

Tennessee

Chuck N
Successful music teacher loses job to budget cuts
Dickson, Tennessee

I was told that I was not going to be rehired for the 2010-2011 school year due to budget cuts. I am a music teacher for Hickman County school system in Tennessee, where I just completed my 10th year. I had a very successful music program. I even had a children’s choir that I taught for free. We met once a week, on Thursday afternoons, from 3:30-4:30. The choir was by audition and I averaged 70-80 members. I started the choir in 2000, the year that I was hired. In my general music classes, I gave it my all. My students learned about various music genres, the great composers, music theory. In short, I did my job.

Jennifer O
All children need arts education, not just the rich
Knoxville, Tennessee

Our school cut one of its two music teachers. Before the cut, each music teacher had 350 students and saw them once every three school days. Now, one teacher sees all 700 students and they only have music class once every six school days. In a school where more than 85 percent of the students receive free or reduced-price lunch, outside music lessons are not an alternative. Arts education learning that truly touches our children and sparks their creativity is becoming available only to the wealthy.

Lisa C
Not having a job in this economy is a humbling and scary prospect
Lafayette, Tennessee

I taught school for four years after graduating from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1985. I began law school in 1989 and began practicing law upon graduation. Subsequent marriage, divorce, custody battle, the economy, two parents with major health crises, and health insurance premiums that doubled and then tripled persuaded me to accept a newly created position as a homebound teacher in October 2008.

I was advised two weeks ago that next year, my position will be eliminated due to budget cuts. I have no job, then, as I do not have tenure, even though I have certification in high school English and math, and a law degree.

Not having a job in this economy is a humbling and scary prospect. I hope our representatives in Congress never face this prospect with as little financial security to sustain them as I have. Or maybe it would be helpful if they had some understanding of the real fears so many of us face. We can have an intellectual understanding of a situation, but until we actually walk in those shoes, it is an understanding of little depth. I ask Congress to consider all the facts, the connections among the issues, and to support educators and the children to whom we are dedicated.

Texas

Marty H
I am the kind of teacher districts say they want
Southlake, Texas

I spent 25 years in the corporate world. Then, I finally pursued my passion: teaching science to gifted students.

I am the kind of teacher districts say they want: smart, experienced in the “real world,’ flexible, continually educating themselves and staying on top of technology. I am passionate about teaching, especially teaching gifted students.

Nearly done with my master’s degree in gifted education, I now find that my job is in jeopardy because budget cuts may eliminate my job or dilute it to the point of absolute ineffectiveness.

It is very unfortunate indeed, for GT teachers like me and our special-needs students (which, in this district, is 25% of the population) to be driven out of the specialist jobs for which we have trained and that we love.

Deborah P
Graduate degree no guarantee of employment
Dallas, Texas

I have been a stay-at-home Mom, home-schooling my children for the past 20 years.  Before that, I taught for nine years. It took me three years to get back into a school after my divorce. I worked one year and then was told that due to budget cuts, my position would be terminated. I enrolled in graduate school to get a master’s degree in reading and become a literacy specialist. I few days ago, I was told that the school districts in Dallas and surrounding areas would not be hiring. This is sad in America!!

Joy P
Special education assistant’s job eliminated after 20+ years of service
China Spring, Texas

After 20+ years of working as a special education assistant, I have just been informed that due to proposed budget deficits, my position will be eliminated next year. This is despite the fact that my work history and past evaluations are flawless ‘¦ not to mention the fact that the Texas public school where I am employed has over 200 special education students on the high school campus alone. Funding for education (including educators’ salaries) must be a priority!

Utah

David H
I don’t know what is going to happen to me
Magna, Utah

I was a first year teacher on a one year contract for Salt Lake City school district in Utah. The district cut my position, leaving me with no chance of being rehired.

There have been budget cuts statewide, which has made it very difficult for me to find another job. Since I have been looking for the past three months, I have had only one interview. I talked to the head of human resources for the district and he was less than helpful. He wrote my name down and said he would look into why I have not received calls for schools. He said he would email me, but I have not heard anything from him.

I want to continue my career in education. I have just started my career and I don’t know what is going to happen to me. I need the money to pay off student loans and for living expenses, and I have little experience in anything else. I fear that I will end up working two or three entry level jobs just to get by.

Colene B
Reading programs being cut boost students, help them succeed
West Jordan, Utah

I am a first grade teacher in the financially struggling Jordan School District. We have a couple of reading programs at our school to help students who are reading below grade level. We have been told these programs will be cut if not completely, scaled way down. I have had students involved in both programs this past school. They came to me reading way below grade level; I just finished end-of-year testing and they were at end-of-the-year first grade level. I have had the same experience in years past. I really hate to see these programs cut because they give these students the extra boost they need to succeed in reading.

Vermont

Shelley J
All 70 ESPs are being laid off
Eden Mills, Vermont

All 70 support staff at Lamoille Union Middle School, High School, and the Green Mountain Technical and Career Center in Hyde Park, Vermont, received RIF letters. This will have a serious impact not only on the students, but on the overall running of the school. We are hoping that our community will back us by contacting board members, as well as the superintendent’s office, and letting them know how important we are to the education of their children.

Rita G
The children are the ones who suffer in the end
Hyde Park, Vermont

All support staff members in my middle school, high school and tech center have received “pink slips.” These schools cannot operate without secretaries, kitchen staff, custodians, tech support and paraeducators. This group is approximately 70 people. I am a paraeducator and I have been employed here for 12 years. I have touched many lives and most students think of me as a second Mom. The children are the ones who suffer in the end. Please help us to keep our jobs.

Beth D
State policies to equalize school spending are backfiring
Springfield, Vermont

I have taught for 14 years in a small school in Vermont. All the teachers have been riffed while the town tries to find consensus on a school budget that is inflated by penalties imposed at the state level designed to equalize school spending. As a result of these laws, elders are pitted against young families in the village, and well-off communities are pitted against struggling ones in Vermont. The tension not only hurts schools, it rips apart the fabric of the entire community.

Our school will have to cut nearly half its budget to avoid the penalty threshold. This will mean firing at least half the staff, or eliminating busing for our students (and still cutting staff). This will happen at the same time that CFG-funded positions are also being cut. Our already fragile school population will be even more at risk.

Federal policies that provide equal access to quality education for all students would do a great deal to alleviate this tension.

We are about to lose some fabulously talented teachers. I will most likely keep my job for now because of seniority, but when the school closes in a few years which it may well do if the funding gap does not close I will have a hard time finding a job as an experienced (i.e., expensive) teacher. I love teaching, and I am good at it. What a waste of human resources when so many children need us.

Elizabeth F
Bring more good teachers into the system
White River Junction, Vermont

As a relatively new educator, I have had my job cut EVERY year since I started teaching. It gets harder and harder to keep jobs as budgets get smaller and smaller. It is disappointing and frustrating to see good educators lose their jobs due to budgets that are no longer within their control due to unfunded federal mandates.

Help cities and towns across America retain the good teachers they have. Bring more teachers into the system instead of asking us to do more with less, which now seems to be the standard.

Virginia

Patricia F
Administrator reassigned to classroom after 27 years
Forest, Virginia

On April 14, 2010, I was informed that my job in the central office as a Special Education Administrator is being eliminated after 19 years of loyal service to Lynchburg City Schools. I am being placed in a teaching position for students with intellectual disabilities after 27 years of being out of the classroom. While I am thankful to have a job, I am suffering a 28% cut in pay and will now also have to pay a part of my health insurance if I want to maintain dental and vision services. I am five years from retirement and feel that I am being treated unfairly and that children will suffer as a result of the cuts to education.

Mary P
School for at-risk middle school students closed
Richmond, Virginia

 

I will still have a job next year, but I will no longer be doing what I’ve loved doing for the past 4 years.  I currently work in an alternative middle school that will close at the end of this school year.  We help over-age middle school students get back into their appropriate grade levels.  Basically, we’re dropout prevention for middle schoolers.  My county faces a $40 million budget shortfall.  Closing my school saves them one million.

What’s going to happen to those students?  Well, they’ll stay 15 and in 7th grade.  If they manage to make it through without failing anything else, they’ll be graduating high school at 20.  Maybe by then there will be a job for them somewhere…

MaryAnn B
‘I feel like gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe.’
Stafford, Virginia

I have been in education for 26 years. For 16 years I taught special education. The last ten years I have been an elementary and middle school counselor.

Last week 800 people in our district received letters stating that we may have our salaries reduced by cutting our jobs from 11/12 month to 10 month. We would lose at least one month’s pay and in some cases two months. We would not receive paychecks during that time and would be responsible for paying our own health insurance for the months we did not receive pay.

The group who received these letters includes central office staff, 11 month teachers, counselors, principals, asst. principals, bookkeepers, secretaries, custodians and bus drivers. These cutbacks would mean no summer school, no schedules ready for the first day of school, and lots of employees unable to pay their rent/mortgage, car payments, bills and  feed their children.

We are the 11th richest county in the nation and we have some of the lowest salaries. Our staff scrape by as it is and now 800 of us may not survive the summer. Many of us are single parents with no other source of income. I love education. I have enjoyed every minute of the last 26 years, but right now I feel like gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe.

Ermadine B
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Toano, Virginia

I received my reduction in force letter on Thursday, April 15, 2010.  I feel as though there is a dark cloud following me through my career as a Business educator.

I relocated to Virginia in 2005 after working various jobs in New York, giving up a job of six years with the State of York to return to education. I had lost my teaching job of eight and a half years in New York due to declining enrollments, now I find myself in a similar situation five years after relocating to Virginia.

My co-workers voted me teacher of the year for my first three years here, but instructors with low enrollments in their classes are the first to be “riffed”.  It seems that we are no longer interested in providing our youth with job readiness skills.

If it had not been for all the Business courses I completed in high school, I would not have had the necessary skills to get better paying jobs to help finance my college education.

I truly believe that our education system needs to undergo some changes, but please let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!

David T
When educators lose their jobs, students lose too
Fairfax, Virginia

I am losing my general education and emotional disabilities teaching position due to the small number of students in the technology education and advanced electronics classes I teach. When educators lose their jobs, students lose too. Not one less student is coming through our public school doors because of the economic crisis. Students need teachers and support workers helping them, protecting them, inspiring them, and educating them every single day.

Bonnie K
Job turmoil hurts entire family
Christiansburg, Virginia

When I got my husband into teaching five years ago, it was partially because it was a stable career and we were expecting our first child. Two years later, budget cuts closed his school. He found another position an hour away and loved it there until budget cuts eliminated his position after only one year. So we moved to a different part of the state where a position was open for him.

We figured I would be able to find a science teaching position anywhere. But, after last year, I was one of 120+ teachers that didn’t get rehired. And no one else was hiring, either. So, this year I’ve been unemployed. It has prevented us from adopting the foster kids we fostered for 2.5 years. It has meant that our old house that we were renting out was foreclosed on. It has meant that our son has watched his whole world change and he doesn’t understand why.

I have just taken a long-term sub position four hours away, which means I only get to be home for 44 hours a week. The position could become permanent next year, but it means that we’d have to move AGAIN, which would only make sense if my husband can find a job. Any job that he is qualified for would be OK, but with so many people applying for most positions, the chances are slim.

So, we face the prospect of me being unemployed again next year (and losing our current house) or having a whole year of living apart as a family unbearable for a Mom and young child. Teachers and students are suffering horribly in the current situation. We need help.

Jim K
Technology education teacher will not be replaced
Blacksburg, Virginia

I am a technology education teacher at Floyd County High School in Virginia. I reach 120 high school students each year with unique and valuable opportunities to learn design, engineering, applied physics, and teamwork. In June, I am retiring from the profession after 27 years. The school board’s proposed budget for next year makes no provision for a replacement. The students of Floyd County will lose these valuable opportunities unless Congress acts to improve funding for our public schools.

Washington

Bobbie M
Cutting specialized programs like art hurts our students
Spokane, Washington

Our school is reeling from budget cuts. We lost our art teacher! The students LOVED him and he kept a HUGE group of our students hooked into their education by providing a creative outlet. I am not sure how this group will do without this place “to belong.” If the research says that all students need to find a piece of their school to make their own, what do we do when these specialized programs keep getting cut? It is a slap in the face to our students and goes against what the educational research states. I am floored!

Claudia M
Fewer students will be taught to read at grade level next year
Wenatchee, Washington

I teach in a rural district that has been greatly impacted by current economic conditions. We used to have 8 classes in each of our elementary grades. Now our 4th grade has been cut to 7 teachers and classes. Meanwhile, 3rd grade still has 8 full classes. When these students transition to our 4-6 grade school, each teacher will begin the year with 26 students. This may not seem like a lot, but 85% of our students are Hispanic and 70% are English-language learners. We have two full classrooms of 3rd graders who are still learning to read.

So now, for the first time, our school will have two classrooms of remedial reading and 1 classroom of 3rd grade reading. This means that only four of seven 4th grade teachers will be teaching 4th grade reading.

I give each of my students 1,000 percent every day, but it seems like education is becoming a game for everyone except the students and teachers. As challenges increase, it would be great just to know that someone out there is trying to level the playing field for all students, not stack the deck against public education students and teachers.

Aley M
The line is endless and my baggage is heavy
Tukwila, Washington

I have been an adjunct instructor at the college level for over ten years. Ten years with no benefits, no office, no desk, no title. You see, I must work at three to four different colleges just to exist. I am grateful to have work, as teaching has been a lifelong dream of mine. I am a good teacher and I love my students, my subject and the colleges where I work. I work online, write curriculum, and attend college to remain knowledgeable. I believe my students’ future is the most important thing in the world. I would love to have a full-time job in education, be taken seriously, and be an important cog in the train. I have been sitting at the station waiting for a ticket for a long time. The line is endless and my baggage is heavy. Can you help me?

Loretta D
No one will want to teach below-average students
Seattle, Washington

I have taught at the middle school and high school levels. I have worked in lower socioeconomic level schools as well as schools in middle class neighborhoods. I am currently working in an area with high mobility and little to no income for most of our students and their families.

I am proud of the advances my students have made and do not want to move to an area where the need is not as great. Therefore, I can count on being fired within the next year or two.

With test scores now a part of teacher evaluation, no one will want to teach below-average students. Many teachers will be forced to leave the field the same talented teachers whose students would have exceptional scores if they worked in middle class neighborhoods.

To save money, teachers are being riffed who are certified in areas such as computer technology, accounting, marketing, culinary arts, finance, sewing and fashion design. The emphasis is on core subject areas such as math, language arts and science. But with class size growing as a result of budget cuts, it will be very difficult to reach all students and provide the extra help many of them will need.

The situation is untenable situation for teachers and their students your children and grandchildren. Please fund people who have dedicated their lives to improving tomorrow.

Joan A
What will happen to the kids?
Hansville, Washington

I have been working in education for more than 13 years now, the last seven as a teacher. I love teaching and I, like my colleagues, care about the success of all our students.

Within the last couple of years I have obtained my Masters in Education, and am now required to continue on to receive Professional Certification at my own expense to prove that I am highly qualified.

I have not been able to secure a full time position due to layoffs and what I believe to be the stress put on education by the previous administration. I anticipate receiving my pink slip within the next two weeks, as a part time teacher is an easy target.

This is highly frustrating because I love what I do and my students benefit from my experience and my genuine concern for their growth. Many of our teachers will not be back in the classroom.  Already the classes are overloaded, and this is in elementary school

We are not only educators, but mentors, advisors, friends, and advocates for the students we serve.  I feel scared for some of these growing minds, to not have these people in their lives to help guide and encourage them. I wake up wondering, what will happen to the kids?

I realize I might have to give up my dream career – or rather, it will be taken from me. I may never be able to pay back the incredible amount of student loans I have taken on. I feel abandoned by the state of Washington, the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, by our University systems that change the rules and requirements for teachers on a yearly basis, and I’m sorry I took out additional loans to complete my Masters degree.

My incredible colleagues and I are highly qualified, highly motivated, and creative and flexible in meeting the needs of a diverse population.

I can find new ways to share my gifts with students in the future, but given the likelihood of the pink slip around the corner, I may just move into a private sector job and let the chips fall where they may.

Wisconsin

Jane G
Students in larger classes get less individual attention from teachers
Butternut, Wisconsin

I have been working in the Park Falls school district for the past several years teaching physical education, adapted PE, and health. I feel so very fortunate to be able to teach something that I really love to do. It is also imperative, with rising rates of obesity throughout the nation, that children have this vital knowledge about nutrition, physical activity, and caring for their bodies for a lifetime. Each and every year, our school district has faced cutbacks to save money. Our school board and administration have had to make many unpleasant choices.

Last year, in an effort to maintain quality education, our district, along with the Glidden school district, consolidated to form the new Chequamegon district. This year, I was notified that I will be cut to half-time due to economic and budgetary constraints, and that the change is not a reflection of my job performance. Another teacher in our district was cut completely.

These types of reductions are difficult for students and the remaining teachers. With more students, children will have even less time with their teachers. Our children deserve to have quality education in smaller classes. When I teach, I want to make a personal connection with my students, to understand them, and understand their needs. But with the cuts, my co-workers and I will have more students and more responsibility in trying to teach larger classes. I feel burned out and frustrated that we, as a staff, will not be able to teach as effectively as we could before.

Many students confide in me and share what is happening in their lives. I help them find solutions to their problems or direct them to someone who can. With more cuts in the future of our district and many other districts, more students will ‘fall through the cracks.” Many will feel like their teachers don’t care for them and won’t confide in us. To me, the saddest future we can give our young people is a future in which they feel that adults don’t care about them. It can cause them to give up hope.

Kerry S
Money available for sports, but not art, music or classroom teachers
New London, Wisconsin

I am as shocked as all the other wonderful teachers who have been “pink-slipped” due to “budget shortfalls” all over our country. I ponder how any district, including mine, can justify adding and promoting administrators who earn so much more than the loving, dedicated teachers who earn modest salaries. Most notable to me is how huge amounts of money readily appear for sports arenas while art and music and classroom teachers have pitiful budgets and class size grows. Given this anti-education environment, how can we expect our future leaders to succeed in the international arena?

Dan M
Rural science teacher riffed despite gains in student achievement
Antigo, Wisconsin

On Wednesday, after nine years of teaching physical science to high school freshmen, I received a final layoff notice as part of reduction-in-force of 7.4 full-time equivalents more than 10% of the teaching staff at our local high school.

Most of our freshmen start out more than a full grade level behind in most subjects. During my eight years in this district, I have taught only freshmen. Every year, their scores on state standardized tests have gone up and exceeded the state average. Moreover, exit testing shows that by the end of the year, they have closed the achievement gap (one to two grade levels) they had at the outset.

Being riffed leaves me feeling under-appreciated by this district and our society as a whole. It also leaves me without much-needed health insurance for my wife, who has lupus and is pregnant with our fourth child. Living in rural northern Wisconsin and having very little leeway to move, I can only hope to find a job in a different field to provide for my family.

Next year, every student who comes to Antigo High School will be short-changed. There will be fewer classes offered, especially to our advanced students. There will be fewer sections of each class, making an already difficult scheduling situation nearly impossible. There will be more students in every class, even the already overcrowded core classrooms. I doubt that next year’s students will many meaningful lab opportunities in science, many meaningful writing and research opportunities in language and social studies, or the one-on-one attention in math they need.

I know my family and I will be fine. I can’t say the same for the students of this school district.

Robert C
The future of our children is at stake
Luck, Wisconsin

I taught junior-high aged kids for 34 years and when I retired in 1994, felt the need to keep contributing by substitute teaching for 8 more years. During that time, I also became a member of our local school board and was its president for most of those years. The most heart-wrenching decisions we as a board have had to make these past 2 years have been cutting back on our teaching and paraprofessional staff, bus routes, kitchen staff, office staff, and custodial staff. Also, we now have a part time elementary principal instead of a full-time one. This is entirely due to the lack of funding from sources that had promised to provide funds at an adequate level to maintain quality programs. I urge our lawmakers to restore these funds because the future of our children is at stake.

Karen H
These cutbacks are seriously hurting our children’s educations
Maiden Rock, Wisconsin

Due to declining enrollment and underfunding education, my job as a physical education teacher was cut back 20%. Cutbacks affected others as well. The librarian position was cut and she was given a 50% aid position. The 5th grade teacher was cut entirely and the class will be taught by teachers in the elementary and middle school, a different teacher for each subject. Our guidance counselor was reduced by 25%. The high school music teacher retired and now the elementary music teacher will have to do K-12 music. Needless to say, morale is at an all-time low. I do not believe that we are using best practices as some would believe, but rather depriving students of a top rate education because of the cutbacks. All of us have financially supplemented our classrooms for years, but this will no longer be the case I cannot afford it any more. These cutbacks are seriously hurting our children’s educations.

Christy H
Larger classes, shifting teachers around are not good for students
Baraboo, Wisconsin

After looking for four years for the job that I thought would be my dream job, I finally landed it!  My first year was challenging but rewarding. I joined a statewide math taskforce to get our district aligned with state and national standards. I was so excited to be a part of the wave of change that would directly impact students. Then, less than a month after receiving and signing my contract for next year, I was laid-off, along with one other full-time teacher; several other positions were cut back to less than full-time.

The cuts led to a great deal of shifting teachers around to other grade levels. These changes are not in the best interests of the students; they are ruled by the almighty dollar. Educators are constantly asked to improve student performance and test scores. But how is that possible when we are not given the tools, training, and positions to make it possible?

The state legislature says that we need to hold teachers accountable. Well, I say let’s hold the administrators and government accountable. We have been told that providing good, quality education to our students is the priority, but so far I do not think we have that at the local or national level. Increasing class size and shifting teachers around does not seem like the way to provide the best education for our youth.

Joan D
Would you ask a surgeon to use a butter knife?
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

 

I have been a teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools for over nine years. This past year, I filed an incompatibility form to get out of the school where I was teaching. My title was math teacher leader for the building, but I felt threatened and scared to be in that building. Let me give a taste of my day. Students threatened to jump me, threw food at me, attempted to slam my hand in a door, and told a colleague they would kill her. Sounds like fun, huh?

We as a country have no problem spending millions of dollars on ballparks and over-priced entertainers, but we shortchange the children who are our future leaders. We realize they are individuals, but only offer generalized programs. Many of my students need help in one or two subjects, but requests for additional services are rejected and I am forced to move them on.

Many of my students don’t have money for supplies and certainly can’t afford to see a dentist, psychologist or doctor. A teacher in my district can report neglect or emotional or medical problems, but we are generally overruled by the home environment that created by the problems to begin with.

One of my students had the intelligence and ability to overcome the obstacles he faced. But his alcoholic mother decided not to buy the medication for his epilepsy, and kicked him and his eight-year-old sister out at 2 a.m. They wandered the streets until school started and then, my student had a grand mal seizure.

The situation in our schools today is like this story of two doctors:

Both doctors went to Harvard University and excelled in their fields of study. One doctor wound up at a top-notch hospital in Chicago, where he had all the surgical equipment he needed and a great staff. He was asked to perform open heart surgery on a patient and the operation went very well. The second doctor wound up on a desert island with a bottle of gin and a butter knife. He was asked to perform the same surgery and failed miserably the patient died. We blame him and call him rotten doctor.

Think of our future!! Equip teachers do their jobs effectively. We need financial support and an environment where children succeed.

Stacie E
Shortage of special education teachers hurts all students
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I work in an urban school, where I student-teach math, science, and reading. In math, my students with special needs are not getting what they need because support staff often isn’t available and because one or two students with extreme needs require so much time.

I recently attended a school-wide classroom management seminar, where I was informed me that only 5%-8% of the students in a classrooms should have special needs. Our special education teacher is only available for a couple of hours, so all our students with special needs were moved to those hours. As a result, nearly one-third of the students in my classroom 10 out of 35 have specific behavioral and cognitive disabilities. Our special education teacher can’t tutor all of them in just a couple of hours, so I am forced to choose which ones I think need help the most. They include students with special needs, who I am not legally certified to teach.

That is the situation on good days. On bad days, one or two students exhibit such extreme behavior that special education teacher spends the entire class trying to get those one or two students focused. My kids get absolutely no attention on those days.

None of our students get what they deserve. I spend so much time trying to help students with special needs that other students get hardly any attention. We need more staff to work with special needs students, so I can work with the rest the students I am legally certified to teach.