Students’ Response to School Budget Cuts
Notes from the Field
Submitted by Angela Chan
When I decided to teach, I believed that the betterment of our nation depends on growing compassionate and caring citizens, and on creating an engaged citizenry that must include even those who live in the poorest communities. As a public and as a nation, we have determined education to be so important to the common good that we would collectively fund it for all children. I thought, what better way to invest my life and energy than to be a public servant, to do the important work of educating our young, and not just to do this work anywhere, but to commit to those communities and schools with the least resources.
The last few years of budget cuts to public education has shaken my belief that our country and political leaders value the well being of every single child, rich or poor. Across school buildings in Philadelphia, staff will hear their principals say, “We have a limited budget for next year. We only have enough money for a principal and enough teachers for every class. We don’t have any funds for books or supplies.”
Many who do not work in schools have only minimal understanding of the implications of the reality of those words. For the last two years, my students have lost some of their favorite teachers: our school police officer, a full-time technology teacher, and bilingual counseling assistants who have worked with us for years. Now we must tell our students that they might lose everyone else who is not a teacher. Next year, we, along with all public schools in Philadelphia, might not have a Dean of Students, an office staff, a counselor, an instrumental music program, noon time aides who supervise lunch and recess, extracurricular activities including sports, and books and supplies.
I struggled to help my students understand this senseless predicament. Our children come to school everyday expecting to be in a place of learning. How do we explain that we lack even the basics to sustain our schools? My students are smart, and they understand fairness. Sooner or later, they will make the connection between what is happening to their schools and how this can come to happen. They will come to understand marginalization and know that some groups do not matter in the grand scheme of our nation’s operation. Read the rest of this entry »