All across our country this spring, school boards are looking at millions of dollars they need to trim from their school district budgets. It seems like an insurmountable task. How do you provide the necessary support for schools when revenues are dwindling or not there?
It is tempting, since the majority of operating budgets go to teacher salaries, to balance the budget by cutting teaching positions, but by doing so, think about what you are telling the public and educators. You are saying that teachers are not valued and they are expendable. You are saying that a program, a curriculum, or a piece of technology is more important than an in-the-flesh person whose mission is to educate your children. You are saying that student-teacher ratios do not matter to the welfare of our students and educators.
It is no surprise why parents pull their children from public education and enroll them in private schools. It is not just because of the behavior of the other students or that they want religious education. In large part, parents pull their children out to take advantage of the low student-teacher ratio, because it does make a measurable, positive, long-term impact on our students.
There are two things that schools cannot exist without, the first being children and the second being the teachers that educate them. How can school districts make good on the promise to a generation of young people that they will have access to an exceptional education system when we are not willing to pay for the adequate number of teachers? Beyond this, we need to overhaul our outdated and archaic funding systems and change existing education paradigms to achieve what the typical school should and can look like in the future.
It will take forward-thinking board members to advocate for how the principals of Universal Design for Learning can be utilized to bring up the achievement of all learners and smash the barrier between special and general education.
Most importantly, it will take board members and the general public to put pressure on local and state governments to find ways to increase revenue for teacher salaries, because at the end of the day, we still need to pay for them.
I am well aware that my voice is but one in a sea of concerned educators, but the overall feeling I get is that teachers don’t feel listened to. So perhaps those in charge of balancing the school district budget and casting a vision for the future, should start listening to educators. But what do I know? I am just a teacher.
Special Education Teacher