Education today: You get what you pay for
What can you expect in changes in your local schools this year? Let’s start with what has already happened this fall.
After many years of cuts, this school year started in Marysville with an increase in class size in all grade levels — anywhere from 8 percent to 29 percent increases. In a year when No Child Left Behind dictates that 90 percent of students perform proficient or advanced on the state tests, teachers are struggling to provide services with less support staff, psychologist time, after-school tutoring, books and supplies. Most teachers I know forgo their own breaks and lunch periods to try to help children keep up.
Most teachers I know are spending more money from their own pockets to provide books and supplies to kids.
What should be even more concerning to families is what is coming, especially should Proposition 30 fail. This summer, the state passed AB1476. This law allows schools to decrease the number of days in the school year from 180 to 160. That’s 20 possible days children will be sent home. Twenty extra days for working parents to pay for child care. Up to 20 days cut from teacher salaries.
As a teacher and administrator of 25 years, I am extremely discouraged to watch these devastating changes. I find I am mostly providing triage. On a daily basis, I have to choose which children get my attention and support. The needs of these kids and their families are increasing. I teach third grade. This year my student population incudes six students reading at kindergarten and first-grade levels, 13 students reading at second-grade level, three students reading at third-grade level and four students reading at fourth- and fifth-grade levels. That’s a lot of catching up do to get to 90 percent proficient.
I am reluctant to complain about my decreasing salary and retirement because I mostly do what I do to help children, but teacher salaries are being cut all over the state just as our responsibilities have skyrocketed. Besides the possible 5- to 11-percent salary cuts and the school year possible being cut 10 to 20 days, our out-of-pocket health insurance cost rose 43 percent this year. And retirements are cut when salaries are cut.
Last week, as I looked at a line of six children waiting for my help, tears began to flow as I felt hopeless. I want to do everything I can for my students, but I can’t do enough. In fact, I have decided to retire at the end of this school year. I am unable to continue both physically and emotionally.
If we want better for our students, we must consider paying more. You get what you pay for. Prop 30 would increase the statewide sales tax rate by a quarter cent — or 1 cent for every $4 of goods and increase marginal income tax rates on singles with more than $250,000 in taxable income and couples with more than $500,000. For most of us, it would mean an extra penny for our morning mocha but a sense of security regarding our children’s education.
California taxes are high, but the revenue from Proposition 30 represents just over half of what was lost when three other taxes expired in 2010 and 2011. The overall tax burden will still be lower than it was two years ago. I know that “tax” is a dirty word to many people out there who are suffering in this difficult economy. But be clear that we will all lose if our children do not get the education necessary to contribute to our society.
Judi McKeehan lives in Nevada City.
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