As burdened as I am over what is happening in our district, it is nothing compared to what teachers in the Cleveland City Schools are facing! Have you heard the horrific news; 835 employees to be laid off, 643 of these are teachers! Unreal!
The Cleveland Municipal School District, like so many other intercity districts in our nation, is facing a huge deficit. Theirs is a staggering $47.5 million debt which could climb to $400 million by the year 2015. As a result, Peter Raskind, the Interim CEO, along with the school board, was forced to make some very unpopular decisions.
Tuesday, March 22, a proposal was made which would cut $73 million over two years. This plan involves the laying off of 835 employees, and the closing of seven schools: Margaret Ireland, Giddings, Woodland Hills, Union, Emile B deSauze, Captain Arthur Roth, and Charles Orr Early Childcare, along with the historic administration building. Additional cuts would be made in busing and activities such as theater and science programs, in the purchasing of new textbooks, and in teachers’ salaries and benefits.
Parents in the audience showed understandable concern over these proposals. Some stated that the closing of the schools and the cutting of busing would force children to have to walk through dangerous neighborhoods. Another parent complained about not updating textbooks, claiming that her son is using a textbook that she used when she was in school in 1991.
Along with huge budget deficits, other problems stem from the fact that the schools are underperforming, have high absentee rates, low graduation rates, disciplinary troubles, and a host of other significant issues. Because of these problems, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has lost 30,000 students in the past decade. Cleveland’s issues are so great, that in the February issue of Forbes magazine, it was named “The Most Miserable City in America!”
Zack Reed, a Cleveland City Councilman, was left wondering, after the meeting, how the proposed cuts would help the schools to improve. Class sizes will increase drastically, there will be more work to be done by less people, and morale will be low.
The first vice president of the Cleveland Teachers Union, Mary Ann Fredrick said of Raskind’s plan, “Education will be harmed.” She expressed concern over the increase in class size and her apprehensions that the plan would ultimately affect student achievement for the worse. Of the 650 teachers who would be laid off, Frederick said, “Shouldn’t anybody that directly touches a child and affects a child’s learning be the last place we look?”
And some residents shared their worries over the cuts to extracurricular activities, saying that sports were often one of the few things that kept children busy in a positive way and off the streets. They expressed fear that it would lead to an increase in the number of children who might get into trouble with the law.
“There are no easy answers to the district’s budget woes,” said Raskind. “We have only to look at the deficit conditions in Ohio, in states throughout the nation, and at the federal government to know we must make tough choices at the local level.”
Community meetings have been held to discuss the financial problems the district faces with its residents and how to respond to Raskind’s proposal. And on Tuesday, April 5, the decision was announced by the school board: 643 teachers will be cut! The cuts will be made according to seniority and certification and are equal to about 10% of the current operating budget.
This is such a horrific nightmare for everyone involved! No one walks away unscathed in this situation; no one wins. Certainly not the teachers and other staff members who stand to lose their means of income and the jobs I am sure the majority of them hold very dear. Not the children whose education will obviously be impacted by bigger class sizes, outdated textbooks, less extracurricular activities, and, for some, the loss of personal safety as they go to and from their schools. Not the parents who care about their children’s education, and will have to make agonizing choices about how to provide the best educational opportunities for them and how to keep them safe in the process. And not the city in general, which already has such a negative image that this will make it virtually impossible to attract the kind of population which could turn this city around.
Can anyone else hear the sound of our public education systems beginning to crumble? Does anyone care?