The called meeting was to prepare us, not really to soften the blow. Our principal told us that there were more cuts coming to the budget in the schools this year and most likely for the next few years. The younger teachers looked around the room to see if they fell into the “last hired, first fired” group. Those closer to retirement were concerned that their life plans after decades of teaching would have to be put on hold for another few years. Three more furlough days would be taken from our pay and more may be on the books for the Fall (BTW, Georgia and Hawaii are the only 2 states in the Country that are taking furlough days from their teachers). Fulton county’s tax digest has fallen tremendously in the past year with the economy tanking and this is what the bulk of our funding comes from (+68%). Federal dollars are few and far between for a county that is considered “rich” by Georgia standards. We are 106 million in the hole for next year and no program will be untouched.
I work in the schools yes, but I am also a tax payer in Fulton county and have two children in the school system as well. I have nothing but absolute praise for the teachers my boys have had throughout elementary, middle and high school. These professionals work tremendously hard on evenings, weekends and breaks to ensure their students are not only passing but learning. I’ve seen them on the bleachers with me at sports practices, huddled over stacks of papers to grade, looking up long enough to cheer on their own kids and give me a knowing, weary smile when they see the stack of papers I am slaving over as well. They are masters of working on a shoe string budget with a lot of what they bring to the classroom coming out of their own pockets, and working second jobs to supplement their income. It is beyond frustrating to see a Governor who is working his hardest to make sure that teachers don’t get cost of living increases (even before the economy nose-dived), have their class sizes increased far beyond elbow room level, and then be told that while it is okay to bleed money out of our meager paychecks, he will ensure that a 15 million dollar fishing hole is protected in his last budget. A lot of people, creative teachers with experience and hearts for our kids, will be out of a job this year while Sonny and his buddies are fishing in Bonaire.
I have read some facebook posts recently of people decrying public education and how they are scurrying to home school or private school to “save” their children from the classroom. They are often and woefully misplacing their blame on the teachers. It is the Governor and the state administrators that are decimating our schools. Teachers are trying to keep up with paperwork, raise test scores, counsel children and teach them life skills they are missing out on at home. We jump through hoops learning new curriculum and challenge kids that are on, above or God forbid, below grade level, all in one class at one time. Burn out is at an all time high for teachers. But we are there day in and day out because we love to teach and as a collective, teachers are a group that won’t give up without a fight.
So what can you do? Talk to your state representatives and make an informed vote on who is deciding what is happening in the schools. Weigh in on the budget cuts through public comments at school board meetings and email your school board representative (BEFORE the second week in March). And even if you don’t have children in the school system, please don’t think this doesn’t affect you. It does. These kids are the job force of the next decades. Nothing is safe at this point, so if music in the schools is important to you or having a school nurse is a safety issue, now is the time to speak up people. It’s time to get educated.
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