Monday, June 28, 2010

Educator's Impact

          As tough economic times continue throughout the state of California, educators are being relieved of their duties at alarming numbers. One newspaper article titled Modesto parents, students, lose chance to fight for their teachers, explains the importance of those who are educating our youth, while another titled Budget cuts more painful at inner-city schools, demonstrates the need to address the issues of inner-city schools.

          Educators play an integral role in the development of children throughout their childhood. According to the Modesto Bee, Jaden Brown is empathically caught up in the decision to remove 91 educators from Modesto city schools. Jaden organizes car washes, walks her neighbor’s dog, and even bakes cookies to sell in hopes of saving an educator’s valuable job from a Modesto school. While this is a feat to pull off as an adult, it is more impressive that Jaden Brown is nine years old, and the teacher she is trying to save is her own. While budget cuts are required, many argued the lay-offs were incorrectly implemented.

          While some educators are more valuable to children due to their experience, some who do not have the experience of a twenty-year educator are successful in their endeavor. The justification that the district gave to keep some educators over others was strictly based on seniority and not the ability of the educator. In Modesto, there were instances of educators having the skill and experience needed to successfully perform at the level required, losing their job due to seniority. Administrators argue that this is a fair means of dealing with a dark situation in times where fiscal uncertainty is the only certainty.

          From an administrator’s point of view, reducing staff size, by eliminating those who are “lowest on the totem pole”, seems to be the best method of leaving the tenured educators in their positions to educate our youth. The only flaw with this model is the fact that there are educators who are more skilled, albeit lacking experience, than those with tenure. Administrators are tasked with an unbelievable difficult job of preserving the best and brightest for the future of our children. While administrators deal with the bureaucracies of education, those working on the front lines, the teachers, are those hit hardest.

          A fifth grade elementary teacher from Mendota Heights School District in Minnesota moved away from what she loved. She hoped to find another teaching opportunity in California to help our budding youth reach their full potential; this was three years ago. Three years of searching for an opportunity to continue what you love to do, is heart wrenching. This is one of the many cases of an educator not able to improve the lives of youth around the state. Due to the budget cuts, educators are left no choice but to find other work in other areas. This reduces the availability of those willing and able to mold our children into the future leaders of this country. Without this mold, children, as indicated within the inner city school districts of Los Angeles, will be more tempted to lead a life of crime and violence than one of innovation and intellect.

Sacramento Bee:

Sacramento Bee:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is Cutting the Budget Chic?

            In 2006, before the housing market collapse, before our president was elected, before the iPhone was coined as ‘The Greatest Invention Ever,’ the fiscal crisis was solemnly poking its head into our perfect world. Our life as we knew it was about to change, quite possibly forever. In 2006, the stock market plunged, families were forced to the street, and millions of Americans lost their way of life. While changes have been made, they have not been what this country needs. Instead of infusing our economy with job opportunities and fiscal improvements, many states are decreasing their budget and cutting valuable resources from the communities they serve.
            In 2010, Arnold Schwarzenegger declared his war on California’s $20 billion budget deficit. According to Reuters, the Governor will cut spending that he saw as ‘draconian.’ His method of erasing our deficit was not to introduce new taxes but to eliminate existing programs across all areas; Police officers, fire fighters, educators, and other public service workers are being forced from the jobs they love. The removal of funds leaves our fragile ecosystem of police protection, medical assistance, and education in shambles. While some argue that the budget cuts are necessary, others argue that removing public services places the communities they serve, in grave danger.
            Policymakers, while addressing their fiscal needs, only account for their agenda and not those who are affected by the budget cuts. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vallejo has had 40% of its police force quit or give notice since plans have surfaced of budget cuts. While there is no direct correlation indicating an increased crime rate because of the fiscal crisis, public service officials, around the country, argue that the crime rate has not increased. According to the Cornell Daily Sun, “Kathy Zoner, the Police Chief of the Cornell University Police Department, has not observed any correlations between crime rates and the economic decline”.   While the correlation has not been linked, the decrease in staffing has. According to the FBI, the national average for sworn police officers per 1000 residents is 2.4. Due to budget cuts, Vallejo’s ratio is one per 1000 residents. According to Jason Wentz, a Vallejo native and twelve-year veteran of the police force, citizens are worried. "People on the street know we are scaling down," said Mr. Wentz. "The high-crime neighborhoods are used to seeing more patrol cars, and they notice the ramp-down." To problem-solve by cutting money from the organizations on which communities rely most, is like salting the earth that is needed to provide sustenance. While there will be ever-evolving progress in reducing the budget, other sources of income and other means of cutting the budget need to be addressed.