All levels of the education system are in shambles even as stimulus funds begin to roll in. Changes are underway here at CSUN as some summer classes have been canceled or are only being offered to seniors. The lower levels of education are being hit just as hard though. Young students and parents are being affected by this crisis, and it trickles down into the rest of society.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is a prime example of the troubled situation occurring in California. This district has managed to build a $596 million deficit for the coming school year. Just this month, 1,996 elementary school teachers faced layoffs. The district was able to save these teachers from receiving the dreaded pink slip. While reassuring for many onlookers, this doesn’t mean layoffs have come to an end. More teachers will face layoffs and stimulus funds, while helpful, might not be able to save all of the needed positions in the education system.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 sets aside more than $100 billion for educational purposes, $40 billion of that will go toward saving jobs and making sure class sizes stay at a reasonable number. Part of this money though can also be used to make improvements to school campuses.’
The government has started releasing some of this money and school districts must consider the best way to spend the funds by changing their priorities. This goes for the future too. Stimulus funds will run out, and districts like LAUSD have to be more accountable with their spending habits. Remodeling run-down classrooms and adding new technology, while important for students, doesn’t mean a thing at this point if teachers are sent home.’
Plus, LAUSD is already using bonds to complete a $20 billion project to build 132 new schools in the district to relieve the overflow of students and provide modern facilities. The majority of us voted yes on propositions to make this happen.
Still, students are sitting wall to wall in too many elementary classrooms and if pink slips become a reality for more teachers and assistants, young students are bound to struggle with their work-load even if they sit in a state of the art facility.
Starting as young as six years old, students are expected to do homework assignments nightly to correspond with that day’s lesson. Accomplishing this confidently after spending the day in an over-crowded classroom isn’t going to happen.
Making the grade is already a challenge for young students. Students have fallen behind when it comes to state standards. According to a study by RAND Corporation called ‘Who is ahead and who is behind,’ three out of five California students in the 3rd grade were not proficient in English-language arts as of 2007.
We have to address this problem and keeping current teachers is the first step as many of them will help shape our youth. Bringing more instructors and teachers’ aids into districts where students are barely afloat when it comes to meeting expectations is where extra funding could go. Then, we can consider other changes at local districts where renovations could help improve the overall environment of a campus.
An essential part of getting out of this mess not only has to do with officials making the right choice about how each dollar of stimulus funding is being used, but also officials being forthcoming during the process. As students and as parents, we need to know what is really being done locally to benefit schools.