One topic has been on everyone’s
minds for quite a while now: the economy. While most businesses and people have
been hit pretty hard by the recession, the education system seems to be the
most recent target. Problems started off simple with cuts in school funding and
have since spiraled out of control with state testing scandals, lawsuits, bribes,
and a problem so big even Sesame Street
is talking about it.
An article on edweek.org
discussed one of the most common impacts the recession has had on school
districts: a restructuring of schools from the loss of funding and faculty
members. What has been left in several school districts is the bare minimum in
staff positions being kept. The loss of secretaries, janitorial staff, school
specialists, and other support staff has caused many faculty members to step in
and pick up the slack – this means dealing with more paperwork, cleaning, and
maintenance issues previously relegated to more experienced staff members.
Budget cuts and reduction in aid
have caused a backlash from school districts, some who have decided to take
matters into their own hands. Such as several schools in California, whom
edweek.org reports are suing the state for unlawful budget cuts.
While schools in California hope
to win back funding through the court system, some New York City Schools are at
a loss as to how to remedy their situation. Several news reports from The New York Times have recently highlighted layoffs in New York City that
are affecting the schools that need the staff members the most. Almost 700
employees (mostly full and part-time support staff) lost their jobs in NYC
schools just last week. To make the situation even more stressful, intimations
have been made that had the workers unions compromised more some workers may
have been able to keep their jobs.
The New York Times also reported that to combat the continuing cuts
in educational funds, some educational commissioners may even be involved in what could be considered amoral tradeoffs with a major educational group. With
the increasing number of cuts comes an increase in the number of commissioners
accepting free offers from the Pearson Foundation.
The recent surge of the questioning
of ethics in education seems to over shadow the stories that put educators in a
good light. For instance, many schools in Oakland California are enlarging
their free meal programs. A recent article in The New York Times discusses these schools and their
dedication to helping families in need. Another article from The Washington Post discusses the
role poverty plays today in our schools and how it will continue to undermine
any educational reforms set in action.
School districts aren’t the only
ones taking action against hunger either. The PBS show Sesame Street has stepped up with a new character that will
relate to the growing hunger epidemic children are facing.
These tumultuous times are not
solely for the k-12 educational world either. College students may be seeing a
change in their financial aid packages that could potentially affect the number
of students able to complete their degrees.
The Pell grant – along with
several other programs – may be cut. While the same amount will be dispersed to
students, the qualifications would become stricter and the number of years of
eligibility would be reduced. This would force some students to complete their
degrees – both bachelors and masters in some cases – in a more crunched time
frame of six years (although breaks may be taken).
Although this proposal seems to
be aimed at reducing funding for students who may not be serious about their
studies – part timers just looking to take a few interesting courses or
students staying in college for lack of anything better to do – this may
actually end up hurting the college students who need the aid the most; such as
those who can only go part-time because they don’t qualify for scholarships or
are unable to secure loans, or those who have decided to double up on degrees
or take an intensive eight year course track (doctorate programs). Thankfully
this plan has yet to be put into action, and according to educationnews.org it
is being opposed by many.
What do all of these stories
have in common? They were set into action due to lack of funding in schools and
in students’ homes. While budget cuts and job losses have caused some schools
and even TV shows to step up to the plate they have also caused others to use
less favorable means in order to save money.