Lauren is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.
Education has been an issue deeply entrenched within American society, especially as public school systems increasingly find themselves without necessary funding due to continued budget cuts initiated by the current economic state of the nation. There have been years of heartache and strife on a national scale as well as internally within specific communities as students and teachers find themselves at a loss on how to save the sinking education system.
Diamond Bar High School, overseen by the Walnut Valley School District in California, has been one of many public schools to directly witness the atrocities of the budget deficit. For the 2012-2013 school year, $800,000 was cut in spending money while over 20 teachers were given preliminary layoff notices.
Diamond Bar High School, despite the current economic turmoil, is noted as the "luckier" of public schools in California. DBHS is comfortably situated on the more affluent side of the educational funding spectrum and boasts of a nationally acclaimed Performing Arts Program (Dance Team National Champions, Grammy Award Winning Orchestra) and exceptional AP/IB Scores (2007 AP Calculus World Champions, 2008 Siemens Award). DBHS teacher salaries are also very generous in comparison to the financially lacking, neighboring districts. With Diamond Bar H.S. ranked "19th Best High School" in California by Newsweek 2012, the first teacher strike in 15 years this December shocked the student body and surrounding community.
Diamond Bar teachers, thoroughly rankled by the district's poor budget-spending decisions, spurred a decisive and definitive movement that disrupted the generally inviting learning environment.
In accordance with the California teachers union, the DBHS educators decided to collectively work only to their contracts, meaning that all after-school tutoring programs, clubs and activities were suspended. Initially the first overwhelming response, humorously enough, was student whisperings on how this adult rebellion would detrimentally affect prom. But as the blood drive event was suddenly canceled after months of student preparation (likely as one of the reasons), the intensity and the extremity of the situation was finally realized. Well-respected clubs such as FBLA and Key Club found themselves deactivated and held at a stand-still due to the lack of teacher support. My own JSA Chapter was not able to attend Winter Congress, a mock-congressional convention, due to lack of teacher advising. If the teachers sought to bring attention to their cause, they achieved it with flying colors as an outcry of protest from upset and angry voices filled the coming months. Voices that were fighting to be heard, on both the students' and teachers' part.
It is unfair that students are caught in the crossfire of the teacher argument with the district. It is doubly unfair that educators, whose sole profession lies in providing students with nurture and intellect, are caught in a position that forces them to strike to achieve an actual response from "the above." And without doubt, it is unfortunate that teachers have been so under-appreciated for all that they do. Education is an issue that has become an increasing problem within the recent years, especially as the future of our nation lies within the educational program.
But the most disheartening news is the fact that such measures had to be taken to grab the attention of the public to incite change as the strike directly and negatively affected students. It is a sad day when teachers find themselves with no other option than to take advantage of their standing relationship with students to provoke action.
I myself greatly admire the DBHS staff, and they have served as influential figures in my life for their genuine care for students. My teachers have mentored and taught me so much about studies, life, and myself throughout the last four years.
Though an objective third party will be involved eventually to officially end the immediate disagreement between the DBHS teachers and the Walnut Valley School District, a long road still lies ahead when it comes to fixing and rebuilding the educational system.
As students it has become even more imperative that we stand up against the "bigger picture" as the government continues to cut educational funding. I find myself unbelievably blessed to be attending a school with a standing arts program, excellent extracurriculars, and well-qualified teachers. If anything, as the youth of America, we students need to use our voice to stress the importance of a quality education for those districts that do not have the opportunities that we so enjoy instead of limiting our perspectives to only ourselves. The Diamond Bar strike is much bigger than just resolving the amount of furlough days that should take place in the coming year. It is about fighting for individual rights, the right for a quality education funded by the government to in turn allow for an era where educated young men and women can lead America to a better tomorrow.
Though the question still remains if teacher demonstrations are the best way to achieve the change that is so desperately and adamantly sought, today what remains is the fact that students and teachers find themselves having to pick up the broken pieces.
But one must remember that all wounds heal. And with time, meticulous mending, and a good tail-wind, a fresh start might be the sign American education has been so desperately looking for.