Archive for March, 2011
So this is what we’ve come to. After three years of budget cuts to the community, medical and educational services and supports critical to our highest need students and families and three years of federal bailouts that have allowed districts to maintain salaries and benefit levels for their most senior employees while cutting spending on the programs vital to their highest need students, we’re supposedly on a crash course to education Armageddon. Please excuse me but as far as I can determine, our poorest students and communities have been getting hammered for years. They didn’t have the education system they deserved in good times and in bad times, they’re the ones who lose out.
The evidence of the imbalance in our system is pretty clear. Nobody in power ever loses their job. No lobbyist ever loses his or her job. Politicos can still attend fancy fundraisers in San Diego. And political strategists still rake in the dollars. Oil companies and polluters make their profits. Wall street bankers make their bonuses. Public employee unions keep their benefits and pension levels. And politicians still think we’ll vote their way on taxes without giving us reform as part of the bargain.
Is it too much to imagine that one day in California, perhaps a generation of leadership from now, that we will be able to put the past twenty-five years of lunacy in the rearview mirror and forge the kind of compromise we need on budgets, on education reform, or anything? Californians aren’t stupid. Our system is.
Last week, we released a brief titled Victims of the Churn: The Damaging Impact of Seniority-based Layoffs on Students, Schools and Communities. The report shows the negative impact of California’s teacher layoff policies on students in high-poverty schools in three urban school districts. These students were found to bear more than their fair share of the pain when it comes to teacher layoffs, with their schools 65 percent more likely to have a teacher laid off than a low-poverty school. Some high-poverty schools lost more than 15 percent of their teachers.
We’ve been pleased with the response from district leaders and teachers and coverage in the press but have ben saddened by the failure of most of our elected leaders to respond to it with an aggressive push for changes in policy. We know that some of them, even those who represent communities that are disproportionally impacted by these policies, are dependent on the campaign contributions of adult interests who defend these rules. We know that others do not want to irritate the powerful California Teachers Association prior to asking them for money to fund a campaign to pass ballot initiatives to raise more money. We know that courage in the face of Sacramento adult interests with deep pockets and hundreds of campaign workers and long relationships with staffers who haven’t been outside of Sacramento for decades, is difficult. But courage is what our state desperately needs. And courage in our elected leaders is what we most often remember about them. Statues aren’t built for those who press for legislative changes in areas that “every stakeholder” can agree on. Statues are built for those who put themselves and their careers on the line to advocate for the civil rights of students and their parents.