The Great Recession of 2008 and the subsequent economic crisis that the US has faced ever since have come with many casualties. Jobs have been lost in nearly every industry and the once thriving middle class has been shrinking more and more each day. Still, if there is one casualty that can lay claim to the dubious title of “most affected by the economic crisis,” it is this nation’s public school systems.
Economic Downturn Ravages Public School Systems across the Nation
Public school districts and branches of the government have had, for some time, a relationship that can only be described as acrimonious. To the layperson, it would seem as though dialogue between the schools and the government has existed in a vicious cycle for quite some time.
Here is how it seems to always work: the schools and their students under-perform on standardized testing, so the government cuts back the funding to the school, which causes the schools to lack the necessary resources that would allow them to drive student success. The school, now operating with a less than ideal budget, once again under-performs.
The popularity of charter schools has also driven budget cuts to neighborhood public schools. Charter schools get their funding from the same pool of money that the public schools do, but they are often allowed to take more money proportionally than the local public schools that have been serving their neighborhoods for decades.
What the Decrease in Funding Means for Students and Teachers
Some hardline proponents of fund cutting to schools posit that doing so will help develop public school districts that are leaner, meaner, and more inclined to drive their students to succeed. However, the fact of the matter is that school districts that undergo extreme budget cuts are placed in a dire situation.
When a public school district faces a new round of budget cuts, here is what they can expect:
- Teachers who are deemed “non-essential” will be laid off; teachers who are still essential will face a decrease in pay as well as a decrease in benefits, including health care and insurance.
- Because teachers will have less money available for purchasing materials, they will have to choose whether or not to cut lessons from their plans or purchase the materials out of pocket. Often, students and their parents will be asked to contribute money or supplies to make up for gaps in the budget.
- The students will go to school in an environment that has very little (or no) modern technology and is very often two to three years behind the most current edition of textbooks.
- The school will cut elective courses including physical education, art, computer literacy and music.
- As a direct result of the budget cuts and the subsequent mass firing of education professionals, class sizes will become larger. Classes that may have been capped at 25 students will now have 40, or classrooms from two grades may merge and be taught by one teacher.
Clearly, helping students is not the aim of the politicians and government officials who advocate drastic school budget cuts. Still, parents, teachers, students and school district employees are fighting back to ensure that their neighborhood public schools are able to continue to provide students with the education that they deserve.
Tarrytown, New York Schools Avoid Catastrophic Funding Cuts
In a world where more school districts face drastic funding cuts, one school district has managed to pull off the unthinkable. The Tarrytown, New York Public School District is not facing any budget cuts for this school year, and if they can continue to operate under the same financial guidelines, it is unlikely that they will face cuts in the future.
The District Superintendent says that the district’s savings and the subsequent avoidance of budget cuts are largely a product of “a perfect storm.” Common sense savings and incidental occurrences have led to protection from catastrophic funding cuts, and likely will continue to do so into the future.
Here is a quick overview of how the Tarrytown, New York Public School District managed to save money over the course of the past several years, therefore avoiding budget cuts in the years to come:
- Tarrytown Schools had previously bused students with special needs out of district to get the required education and accommodations. Although some of those students graduated recently, the school district made an effort to improve their own special education services so that students could stay in their home district, which saves the district money.
- The school district drastically improved its pre-K programs. Now, students from other districts are busing in to this program, which provides the district with additional revenue.
- The school district began offering early retirement incentives to members of the Teachers’ Union. Some teachers have elected to take it, which means that the school is paying less in teacher salaries.
- The Tarrytown School District has made a concentrated effort to work with what it has, as opposed to overextending itself on new infrastructure. This concept has been seen most notably at one of the district’s elementary schools. Because the Tarrytown School District is entirely opposed to increasing class sizes, it needed to find additional classroom space to accommodate an influx of third and fourth grade students without compromising their education.
Clearly, the education funding crisis is not going to go away any time soon. Still, if more school districts could think as resourcefully as the Tarrytown School District in the state of New York, perhaps the negative effects on the students might be less dire.
In order for the United States of America to fix its current crisis of education funding and quality, it is necessary for the schools and their districts to think more practically about how they can avoid having their funding cut. Furthermore, as the Tarrytown School District has demonstrated, it is not necessary for a school district to cut valuable programs and services in the quest to avoid funding cuts. In fact, improving the available services can help a school increase its revenue and avoid catastrophic budget cuts.