It’s the annual song of the last day of school right? Only this time it’s not about summer it’s about the budget! Yesterday we were informed by our NYC Schools budget liaison that paper is not a necessity in the classroom. He didn’t really mean that of course but he couldn’t say what the DOE really means which is lose some teachers, create bigger class sizes to the union max (32 kids in grades 1-5) and then you will have money left over for…paper!
This is the position we find ourselves in now, caught in the middle between the mayor’s fight over LIFO (Last In First Out) and the reality of educating our kids. Are there teachers we all know should go and I’d gladly trade in for a ream of paper? Yes. Can we? No. But is that the kids’ fault or the parents’ fault? No. And parents don’t want to be in that fight pitting us against teachers. That is a battle that needs to be fought at the political and union level. Using the budget to force an issue that only hurts the kids in the classrooms is cruel.
This year NYC schools will begin to adopt the Common Core Standards. This will be a slow process and having looked at the Common Core, well, obsessed over the Common Core, for the last 6 months, I can’t even imagine how a teacher could begin to teach in a completely new way and have a bigger class size than ever before. And then don’t forget at least 20% but possibly up to 40 % of their evaluation will be based on the standardized tests that will begin to integrate the Common Core Standards goals. How would you like someone to increase your workload by a third, give you an entirely new methodology and goal, and then provide no supplies to carry out your job but base 40% of your performance review on how the people you are responsible for perform? That’s crazy but it is what we are asking of our teachers.
We all know many of the teachers aren’t going to make it under this system. Some of them have deserved to go for a very long time, but many are just finding their way and will be crushed under this implementation. There has to be a better way. Our kids can’t be the ones who suffer because the politicians are trying to prove a point. We can’t have kids without paper. We can’t run a school without paper. And we all know there are schools where the parents will be able to pick up the slack, to a point. And there are those that cannot. But in the wealthiest nation in the world, in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, despite the recession, to have schools choosing between a teacher or paper should be an embarrassment of epic proportions. Is this what we want to show the world? Are we really going to talk about raising standards when parents are running around buying soap and paper towels for the bathrooms? This is shameful. And we all know the money is somewhere.
When I attended the Mom Congress in DC and met Secretary Duncan he looked at me like I was crazy when I told him the parents at our school paid for the teacher professional development. “Do you know how much money the federal government spends on PD for teachers?” he asked. “Well, where is it? ” I asked back. I never got that answer.
I wonder what he’d say if I asked him where the money is for paper?