COMMENTARY | As a parent who has four children in the public school system in the city of San Dimas, Calif., I along with hundreds of other parents in my community have been sending my kids to school every day this week with a gift, card, or treat for their teachers in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. And no, these aren’t bribes; they are our way of saying thanks for all you do and acknowledging the crucial role teachers play in making sure every student receives a quality education.
The first full week in May was designated as the official Teacher Appreciation Week by the National PTA back in 1984. Every year, thousands of school districts all across the United States take time to say thanks and show teachers how much what they do is appreciated over the course of an entire week. Unfortunately, our thanks and their dedication is simply not enough to insure that our children receive a quality education in the wake of the very real issues hindering teachers from doing their jobs.
As we thank our teachers this week, we need to also acknowledge the struggles they face and work together to come up with a solution. In my state of California, the top three issues facing teachers are staff layoffs, program cuts and overcrowded classrooms, all of which are a direct result of cuts made to education by a state that’s struggling to balance the budget.
According to the Huffington Post, just this past March school districts across the state issued an estimated 19,000 layoff slips to teachers. Some will keep their jobs, as happened two years ago when a record 26,500 teaches received layoff slips; 60 percent of them ended up keeping their jobs. However, the air of uncertainty hanging over teachers’ heads is not conducive to providing a good learning environment for our kids, and it discourages would-be teachers from entering the education field, depriving children and veteran teachers of fresh ideas and a shot of enthusiasm.
Cuts to educational programs is another problem facing teachers in the California educational system. Because of budget shortfalls, school districts have had to either cut out entirely or greatly reduce key programs such as after-school tutoring and summer school. Both of these can help struggling students reach their potential.
In my child’s school, teachers can only send two students from each class for after-school tutoring, even though they may have several other students who also need the extra help. My daughter is one of those kids who could benefit from the extra help and has received it before the tutoring program was reduced. However, since she isn’t one of the two children who scored the lowest in class this year, she wasn’t able to receive tutoring. This year she struggled to keep up, whereas in the past the extra tutoring has given her the boost she needed to catch up to her peers.
The third problem facing today’s teachers is overcrowding. As school districts are forced to let teachers go and prevented from hiring new ones, more and more students are being added to already full classrooms. California has more students per classroom than any other state except Utah; 1 out of every 3 students attends an overcrowded school, with many schools having enrollment that is up to five times higher than the amount of students they were built to serve, according to Just Schools California. In my daughter’s school, her class size has jumped from 20 kids to 33 just in the last year. She frequently complains that she can’t hear everything the teacher says because there is too much talking, or that she has to share a book. Some kids were even without a desk at the beginning of the school year.
With all of these issues facing California teachers, we need to give them more than our thanks and appreciation. What they really need is job security, programs that benefit students and make their jobs easier reinstated and reduced classroom sizes.
California Teachers Association
Just Schools California