Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Doomed, I think, would be the best word for the situation.

If all goes 'according to plan,' the school board in Los Angeles has just effectively said yes to eliminating nearly 5,000 educators from the LA public school system. Granted that is less than 10% of their workforce, and many cuts will come from retirements and offered early retirements or buyouts (not all layoffs), and a lot will be reshuffling of teachers to other districts, consolidating less than 1.0 FTE's, and eliminating redundant positions or cutting unnecessary positions. But no matter how you cut it, it's devastating.

This is leaps and bounds above the 300 predicted layoffs for Arizona that I previously blogged about, and is essentially 'dooming' the education system around LA. I'm not the one to coin the term, however; a former school board member who spoke up at the meeting shouting it to tremendous applause and nearly incited a riot. An estimated 500-1000 students would drop out (on average, of course) at each grade level (Pre-K through 12) as a direct result of the parameters instituted because of the educator layoffs. I say of course because you're not going to have pre-schoolers dropping out in droves, but you'll see that average number of students across the grade levels, meaning probably 100 kindergarten students might drop out, but more than 10,000 high school seniors would, according to the average.

How come? They have a $600 million budget gap. Just the LA school district, not the city and not municipalities, and not suburbs and hamlets. Let me repeat this: 5,000 layoffs.

The only silver linings: The board did vote to extend, by millions of dollars, the size of the deficit they're willing to work with and sit on over the next two years, and will therefore save more than 1,000 of those positions, which belong to experienced teachers with tenure. The other silver lining, this does not include any allotted stimulus money, which is still being worked through the system. There are also countless earmarks the government is trying to negate in order to provide more funding for the school district, so the actual amount the district could receive is still up in the air.

It is an extremely trying time for the country and if we have any hope of a brighter future, we need to support education to the fullest extent possible. We need to effectively double the Department of Education's budget. Do to it what the GI Bill did coming out The Great Depression and into WWII. It made college affordable, attractive and nearly the norm today. Do this after the next two years of stimulus money runs out, but gear it towards later education, including the creation of more charter schools, community colleges and funding for secondary schools to boost graduation rates, college attendees, and those pursuing in-need fields like nursing, math and science, medicine, IT, and specialized engineering. This will make education attractive again and not something that is publicized for its struggles or shortcomings.

We're still leaving plenty of children behind and the answer is funding. We've effectively done nothing to reverse the trends, and that is becoming more worrisome each passing day. Only with more and better education can we change our position. Fewer manufacturing and construction jobs are a problem for blue-collar communities, but if these communities were shaped into educationally apt communities, there would be plentiful opportunities in 'green jobs,' nursing and engineering.

Why is this idea only be twiddled (not to be confused with twittered) about? Is it because we are still too conservative about paying more necessary taxes? Are we too afraid of a technological future? I think both these futures are already here and the longer we wait to confirm it, we'll be in an American rocking chair: we'll be doing something, moving and rocking essentially, but ultimately going nowhere.

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