Saturday, April 30, 2011

Teachers jobs at Risk

Jonothan Raymond,
And there's the irony. This amazing teacher is one of 405 certificated employees in Sacramento City Unified School District that have been pink-slipped – one of thousands of hardworking, dedicated educators across the state. "I love what I'm doing," says Cooperman, "but it's so hard not to feel like you're not valued when you get a pink slip."
Without the extension of current temporary taxes, our district faces a $22.35 million deficit for 2011-12. To address this shortfall, our Board of Education approved painful cuts, including the elimination of most bus service, the elimination of all extracurricular activities like sports, drama and yearbook, and increased class sizes. With bigger class sizes, the district needs fewer teachers. Hence the pink slips.
Recently, The Bee published a commentary on tax extensions and education written by state Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville, one of the Republicans opposed to giving voters a chance to weigh in on the future of K-12 education.
In his article, Gaines ignores the years of cuts public schools have endured as legislators chose time and again to balance the budget on the backs of children – $18 billion in cuts in the last three years. Our district has cut its budget by $177 million in the last nine years – a 35 percent reduction. Last year, SCUSD slashed its central office administration by $5.6 million to keep reductions away from classrooms.
Gaines also fails to address the possibility that the state will once again suspend Proposition 98, the constitutional guarantee passed by voters in 1988 that determines a minimum level of school funding. As Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, recently told The Bee, "There isn't a chance in the world that Proposition 98 will be sustained if $12 billion disappears from the budget."
Instead, Gaines poses a series of questions – no answers – about state spending, using hot-button examples. "What about prison costs?" he writes. "What about public employee pensions … ? What about the welfare system?"
With all due respect, Sen. Gaines, California will have higher prison costs, more inmates and more citizens dependent on state and federal services if we fail to adequately fund our schools.

Gaines ends his piece by saying that "ultimately, it is growth – job creation in the private sector – that will fill the state treasury and make our state golden once again." Here we agree. But will California's future workforce have the skills required to succeed in these jobs? Not unless we invest in our young people.
Providing each and every student in the state with a quality education is our best hope for retaining our state's luster. We must prepare our children for an ever-evolving, 21st-century global economy by giving them the knowledge, skills and habits that come only with a rigorous, relevant and well-rounded education. Jamming students into overloaded classrooms and taking away all the activities that make school what it is – such as sports and the arts – is contrary to this work and abhorrent to everyone who grew up in a time when California's public school system was among the best in the nation.
After a public vote of "Live! With Regis and Kelly's" viewers, Cooperman lost her chance to go to New York. She said later that she wasn't disappointed so much for herself but for the Sutter Middle School parents who launched the letter-writing campaign. "I wanted to win so their work would feel valued," she said. "I wanted to pass down this whole idea of being valued."
Californians can learn a lot from this teacher. Nelson Mandela once said: "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."
Let's treat our children right. Let's value education. Let's value our schools. Our future depends on it.
From the Sacramento Bee- Opinion page.

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