Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Public Schooling

My audience for this post is wide, yet it is an issue that will affect all of us, even if you don't live in my county or my state.

Public Schooling is getting stomped on even more than it usually does. Everyone is going through this recession and is being hit. Most budgeters are trying to make more cutbacks instead of increase revenue. I don't want to get into a political debate, but this is how it is affecting us.

Our local school (Blue Ridge for those of you readers who are local) is "asking" the staff to take an 8% pay cut effective immediately. By saying "asking", I mean that they have been told that if they don't start this cut, the school may shut it's doors on May 1st (instead of May 30th). Teachers will not be getting their paychecks for the summer months. Some teachers will not have jobs next year. Teachers may have to pay ALL of their health insurance premiums! There is no money for subs, so if a teacher is out, the kids get doubled up with another teacher for the day. There may be no janitors next year, so the teachers and students will be responsible for cleaning their rooms (who knows about the restrooms). The brand new school that was built may be shut down. Class sizes may double because they are on a hiring freeze. I don't even know how to translate this into good for the students.

At my school (on the reservation) things are a little different. A little better and a little worse. For the worse, we already have a 75% unemployment rate. There is one industry, timber. With the recession, no one is buying wood. Therefore the lumber mill is closing. There goes 300 jobs. Now the only employment is the school district for classified positions (aides, secretaries), the grocery store, and the casino. If we thought our kids were poor before this, we are in for a world of hurt. Alcohol and drug abuse are going to skyrocket, higher than they already are. There will be nothing for these 300 people to do all day, except get into trouble. We will see a baby boom next year, no doubt. My students aren't going to have food at home because no one is working. They already suffer the effects of neglect, but now they might suffer the effects of abuse if unhappy adults are at home all day. But why should my students come to school anyway? It's not like they see themselves graduating and getting Wall Street jobs. There ARE no jobs!

For the better, the school district is in a better financial situation. We don't rely on the sales tax to fund us, like most other schools do. So, we won't take that big hit. Also, since our kids are so underpriviledged, we get more federal aid. We are not slashing programs and threatening to close our doors. We are cutting additional spending and we are trying to conserve on utilities. Also, we never went into debt to fund the schools, so we don't have to pay anybody back.

In these times, it's easy and natural to think "how does this affect me?" And I do think that. Joe and I are barely making ends meet monthly only by the grace of God. But, I also think about the kids. The kids who are growing up in this. The kids who are seeing their mom and dad laid off at work. The kids who are feeling the crunch and maybe taking the brunt end of the stick. I pray for our nation and our children. They are our legacy. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

where Glory meets my suffering