LatinaLista — While “Main Street” and “Wall Street,” and every “side street,” have taken direct hits during this economic slump, another “street” institution that has not been able to escape budget cuts and downsizing are public schools.
From Ypsilanti to Dallas and Spokane to Great Falls (Montana), public schools are taking a beating.
Course aren’t just being eliminated or class sizes growing larger but teachers are being given pink slips. If there was one institution where seniority counts for something, it’s in the public schools where the rule of thumb during layoffs is that “the last hired are the first fired.”
While it might make sense â€” less experience, less years vested in a school district and/or campus, less investment from the school district via in-service training â€” it is proving to be a devastating loss at those schools that are primarily attended by Latinos and African Americans.
With seniority, teachers usually choose to transfer out of those schools that are “majority-multicultural.” It means leaving behind an old building, in a depressed area of town, with a higher workload and a higher population of at-risk students.
So to fill these vacant spots, first-year teachers pay their dues by putting in time at these schools. But if the last to be hired are the first to be fired â€” where does that leave the children at these schools most severely impacted by school budget cuts?
In California, the Los Angeles Unified School District has issued more than 8,500 pink slips for this school year. According to the California Education Code and the district’s collective bargaining agreement, teacher seniority will be used as the primary criteria to determine which teachers stay and which go since teachers with one or two years of experience will be the first dismissed.
As in every major urban school district across the country, this is bad news for those schools that primarily employ the teachers with the least experience.
UCLA did an analysis of new teacher distribution in the LAUSD and found some disturbing revelations that could probably be applied to any major city school district.
New teachers are not distributed equally across LAUSDâ€™s schools. Because of this maldistribution, some schools will bear the brunt of the proposed layoffs. Our analysis of data on teacher experience from the California Basic Educational Data System suggests that schools serving primarily low-income students and students of color are the most likely to employ high proportions (more than 20%) of first and second year teachers. These same schools are the least likely to employ low proportions (less than 10%) of first and second year teachers.
â€¢46% of LAUSD middle schools serving 75% or more low-income students employ a high proportion of new teachers. No middle school with comparable demographics employs a low proportion of new teachers.
â€¢Middle schools serving fewer (less than 50%) low-income students employ fewer new teachers. 67% of such middle schools employ a low proportion of new teachers.
â€¢40% of LAUSD high schools serving 90% or more students of color employ high proportions of new teachers. Only 8% of such high schools employ low proportions of new teachers.
â€¢In contrast, high schools serving fewer (less than 50%) students of color employ fewer new teachers. 67% of such schools have low proportions of new teachers.
The uneven distribution of the proposed layoffs suggests that the budget cuts may do most harm to schools with the greatest needs.
Though, historically, money always speaks the loudest, there is a grassroots movement developing among Los Angeles’ parents and educators concerned about the impact of the upcoming cuts on the most at-risk student populations.
It’s called CutsHurtKids.org. Organizers of the site tell Latina Lista that they have created a GOOGLE map marking those schools in LAUSD which will be most impacted by the budget cuts. People can submit video, pics and info on their schools which are then placed on the map.
A Twitter site for CutsHurtKids keeps everyone in the loop as to the growing resistance taking root.
In fact, on the Twitter feed, teachers are making it known that a planned strike for this Friday, May 15, is still on contrary to an LA Times report that a judge has halted the strike.
If there is but one thing accomplished by this grass roots movement against the LAUSD budget cuts, it is that the nationwide practice of usually placing first-year or least experienced teachers in those schools that are home to a majority of at-risk student populations, needs to stop.
There should be a good balance of experienced and new teachers in every school â€” not just for the new teachers to learn from the more experienced instructors but that the students have the same advantage as well.