Broward County has been affected by teacher cuts and layoffs of almost 400 teachers and this concerns many parents. In spring 2010, the process for teacher layoffs is dictated in the district’s contract with the Broward Teachers Union. Layoffs are determined by seniority and certification.
It’s never easy to let go of teachers because of limited educational funding, but many school districts have been forced to cut back over the last few years and Broward County is no exception. Every time a teacher is laid off, a valuable educator is lost and students suffer. Whether or not you have a child in grades K-12, teacher cuts affect everyone in one way or another. Here are 10 ways nationwide teacher cuts affect you:
- Undermines the Quality of Education: Many school districts are cutting teachers based on the number of years they’ve been teaching, not how well their students perform or how effective they are in the classroom. This layoff system not only puts young teachers at risk for losing their jobs, but students are also getting the short end of the stick. Making layoffs without considering performance can be detrimental to student academic performance because the teachers who stay may not be the best educators. Just because a teacher has been at a school for multiple years doesn’t necessarily make him or her better educators — they just have more experience. Falling academic performance may cause students to lose interest in academics, drop out of school or give up on their dreams of going to college.
- Loss of School Programs: Nationwide teacher cuts will result in the loss of many important school programs. Traditional school programs, such as physical education, family and consumer science, art and music are being cut from school districts of all financial levels to save money and shift the focus toward weaker subjects like math, science and reading. Unless the school can find another position for these teachers, they’ll likely be cut. These traditional classes have stood the test of time because kids love them and they work. Without these essential programs, students may flounder in school and lose sight of their dreams to be a musician, artist or athlete.
- Hurts the Profession: Teacher layoffs will undoubtedly hurt the profession by causing potential educators to shy away from the field. In addition to layoff risks, prospective teachers may be subject to pay cuts, furloughs and less healthcare coverage. Since most educators already feel they’ve been shortchanged in salary and job security, prospective teachers may opt for different professions that don’t have these ongoing problems. A decline in new teachers will put added stress on current teachers who may have more students to teach, and keep schools from gaining fresh, new talent. The education profession will continue to suffer if changes aren’t made to preserve teaching jobs and maintain reasonable salaries.
- Increases Job Competition: Layoffs will cause thousands of teachers to explore alternative careers, therefore increasing job competition across the board. Laid-off teachers are seeking a wide variety of full-time and part-time jobs to stay afloat. Some are waiting out the budget storm and hoping for a teaching job when things get better, while others are moving on to other careers and not looking back. Employers of all fields will see an even greater amount of applicants competing for the same job. Laid-off teachers with advanced degrees, specialized skills and years of experience will give other applicants some serious competition.
- School Closures: In addition to teacher layoffs, budget cuts and program cuts, many districts have no other choice than to close certain schools. Many times smaller and older schools are closed down and joined with larger and newer institutions so that students, teachers and faculty have somewhere to go. However, these school closures almost always come with severe teacher cuts to accommodate for the move and lack of funding. Even those teachers who get to keep their jobs will have to give up seniority and may end up teaching a completely different subject. School closures also negatively affect students, who have to pick up and move to an unfamiliar setting that can be both mentally and emotionally draining.
- Raises Taxes: Some states have taken the initiative to raise taxes to avoid cutting jobs and services that hurt residents and the economy. The taxes are intended to be used for increased education funding. The states that didn’t implement a tax raise chose to make larger teacher cuts, reduce state funding, shorten the school years, suspend programs and eliminated preschool.
- Undermines Economic Development: Teacher cuts can have a devastating effect on the country and your state’s economic development. Not only can a lack of teachers damage education and limit student achievement, but it may also compromise the quality of a state’s workforce. Without these teaching jobs, states could see a significant decline in the standard of living and quality of life. More students may struggle academically and choose not to graduate or attend college. Teachers play a key role in the development and success of students. If teachers’ jobs and resources are cut down any more, it could seriously undermine our economic development.
- Increases Class Sizes: Fewer teachers means larger class sizes. When student-to-teacher ratios increase, it significantly reduces the amount of time teachers can spend working with each student. Teachers will be maxed out trying to teach 30 or more students and may not be able to perform to the best of their abilities. The same goes for the students who are in these large classes. Large classes typically come with a slew of behavioral problems, and students have trouble excelling in such distracting settings. Struggling students who need more attention and advanced students who need more challenges will also be negatively affected by larger class sizes.
- Widens Achievement Gap: Teacher cuts are only doing students a disservice, especially when referring to the achievement gap. Layoffs keep the achievement gap from narrowing because students aren’t receiving the kind of education they need to improve their standardized test scores. Limited resources, program cuts and larger class sizes only worsen the problem. The education system will need more teachers to improve student performance and narrow the achievement gap between students of different races.
- Shapes our Future: Teacher cuts will shape our future and the future of today’s students in more ways than one. It could strengthen the occupation as a whole or cause a decline in interested applicants. It could make teaching a more selective career or a desperate field. Students are also impacted by teacher cuts and will most certainly experience the effects of a struggling economy. Only time will tell if these teacher cuts damage the education system or make it stronger.
Special Contributor: Mike Vogt