A teacher's winter blues

No rain, no money were getting me down.

It hasn't rained much in Northern California this winter and that's a problem. By the middle of January, we'd had no rain this month and trace amounts in December. It had been cold, freezing temperatures every night for a couple of weeks.

People who live in the Midwest and East think we're whiners, but this no rain thing is a serious threat. Every kid I come in contact with has a runny nose. I sound like a broken record: "Blow your nose! Quit wiping it with your sleeve!"

I buy boxes of tissue every year. When the district's budget crunch first hit, we decided that buying pencils was a better idea than tissue. My classroom is filthy. Since custodians were laid off first, about three to four years ago, no one cleans counter tops or desk tops anymore, and the floor gets vacuumed once a week.

I walked in on a colleague the other day vacuuming her room during her prep. She had a substitute teacher the day before and the floor was covered in little pieces of paper. One hundred and sixty students roll through her room every day, and she was disgusted by the mess.

Another colleague who teaches science cleans with anti-bacterial soap every week. She is determined not to get sick.

I hate living in California right now; I used to love it. I loved talking about how everything was so progressive, so innovative. No more. The Governor has a few good ideas and if the legislature can agree, maybe we can turn things around. But man, living in this nightmare of no funding really is horrible.

I hate teaching in the Elk Grove Unified School District right now. Yeah, I said it. I used to be so proud of our schools, the way I was treated as a teacher. Now, it just stinks. I sat at the school board meeting last week and listened while two approaches to budgeting were presented. Fagan, the money guy for EGUSD, contrasted with Schidmor and Chatten, money guys for the Elk Grove Education Association, which represents teachers.

It boils down to the district adding money to their reserves while the employees make sacrifices and programs are cut. EGUSD has a $63 million reserve fund and your kids have fewer school days. I have less time to teach what I need to, I buy my own kleenexes, my classroom is dirty, and EGUSD has a reserve fund about six times larger than it needs to be.

See the problem?? No rain, no money. 

Then education expert Diane Ravitch came to town! Ironically, the day she spoke to Sacramento-area teachers, it poured. It rained in buckets. I was uplifted! She gave us hope by providing us with ammunition for those who would seek to destroy the great American tradition of public education.

Maybe things will get better? I can only hope.

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M.Legison January 24, 2012 at 02:49 AM
It's not irrelevant because it is what it is/she is. Her only support left is from teachers unions, and *she* is largely irrelevant. The best solution is vouchers, because we now have an inefficient and ineffective government monopoly in public education. There are still unsolved problems with vouchers, mainly insuring the low income students have choices too because the neighborhood public schools as they exist would likely become the last choice of most. As far as further subsidy, no. It's not necessary, as proven by several successful alternative, private school systems.
Mark Paxson January 24, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Really, M. Legison, as somebody who criticized somebody else for an ad hominem attack, where's the justification for saying she's a Marxist? Seriously. As for the additional discussion, I don't think you answered the question ... vouchers, fine, I'll support them when you and the rest of the vouchers supporters are willing to agree to a program in which low income students have the same choice as other students. If you're not interested in a "further subsidy" it appears you're unwilling to support such an idea. I'll support any program that gives all students and families the same "choice" which means, given their more limited means, low income and middle income families need something more than a voucher or payment that only covers a portion of the cost of private education. If you really support true choice, you would, too.
M.Legison January 24, 2012 at 04:27 AM
If you have to ask the question, you have not taken the time to become familiar with her. In my case, I had no choice. By the way, that was not an ad hominem attack. Review the definition if you choose to. I would love to get into a detailed discussion about unions, choice, and vouchers, but again, this forum doesn't lend itself to lengthy discussions I believe the current expenditures per student would cover all with a completely revamped system. Today, no, but we're not talking about the system in place today. Like you, I will not support a voucher system that does not give all the same qualitative alternatives. Take a look at Michelle Rhee. She's another promoter, but has a much more progressive and practical vision.
Mark Paxson January 24, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Sorry, M. Legison ... I'm pretty sure she's not a Marxist. She may be a liberal, she may even be a socialist (horror of horrors), but a Marxist? Probably not. I do agree that the problem with the current system is not the amount of money being spent. Instead, it's about how the money is being spent ... if spent wisely, equitably, and efficiently, we wouldn't have the problems with the public school system that we have and choice wouldn't be an issue. Wait a sec, did you really use "progressive" and "practical" in the same sentence in a way that tied the two together in a positive manner? :)
M.Legison January 24, 2012 at 05:17 AM
LOL, Mark! I did catch that after I wrote it and smiled as well. Progressive of course has several meanings. I will tell you that if the Progressive Era was still around, I'd be there. Those (Earl Warren) Republicans were my kind of GOP.


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