...I'm scared. Really and truly, stomach-clenchingly scared. The atmosphere for teachers in my state, and especially in the schools facing the big budget cuts, is terrifying. In my school district, the number of teachers has been cut almost in half in the past 10 years. We are stretched to the point where things are soon going to break or snap back at us in a very painful way.
This coming school year, we are facing cuts of one million. This is a very rural school district. I don't know exact numbers, but we are under 1500 students k-12, and a staff of about 50 teachers. For next year, it is being proposed that we close both of our elementary buildings, consolidating the entire district into the middle/high school campus. There will also be a "retirement" incentive, which is being offered to everyone on staff--a staff in which the youngest teacher has been here for at least 6 years.
After these savings, we are still faced with needing to cut $400,000. And that will mean more teaching jobs cut. And that is why I am scared. Since the legislature in my state has targeted the main teacher's union, we have lost most of our rights. One of these is our tenure and seniority protection. That means any teacher can be cut.
I am not afraid because I don't do my job. I am afraid because in order to save the most money, the administration can now just choose to cut the people at the top of the pay scale. To me, that means that the longer a teacher works in a district, the LESS sense of security they will have in their job. Especially in small districts like mine.
I know that in theory, lawmakers may have thought that doing away with tenure would help to get rid of ineffective teachers. But in the economic situation the state has brought us to with their repeated cuts to education, they have created a situation in which veteran teachers, no matter what their evaluations say, have to be fearful of losing their jobs.
What I see happening is a rapid decline in teacher morale. And in a time when we need to pool our resources and collaborate to ensure student learning, what I see beginning to happen is teachers closing their doors. They are afraid to work together. They are afraid of turning on each other. They are afraid of losing their jobs. And that fear is going to undermine the work we have to do.