Here we are at the end of another school year, and once again, teachers throughout the USA are facing uncertainty. Will they have a job next school year and if so, will their classroom balloon to unmanageable sizes? Congress has not acted and now the impact of sequestration on federal educational programs is beginning to take hold.
According to The Atlantic, the worst victims of the education sequester are special needs students and poor kids who are the students who need our protection the most. The majority of federal funding for education targets the poor and disabled. Title 1 (federal support for low income school districts) and Head Start (the pre-school program for disadvantaged kids) serve these children. The Department of Education's financial support is up to 25% of educational spending for special needs students. Of the $78 Billion in federal spending on elementary/secondary schools, half goes to Title 1, special education and Head Start. A third goes to support school lunches, improvements and aid. The National Education Association (NEA) estimates that 7.4 Million students and 49,365 school personnel will be affected as the sequester takes hold. School districts are obligated by law to provide services to special education students. But with these cuts, these children with the most needs may be crammed into crowded, unsafe classrooms and may receive less speech or physical therapy. Other consequences of these cuts may be more subtle school districts becoming more reluctant to classify kids with disabilities because of the cuts to this program and local districts reducing art and music education for non-special ed kids to make up for this budget gap.
The impact on kids going to college is something else Congress decided to ignore. According to the Baltimore Sun, the sequester had the Army, Marines and Air Force suspending their Military tuition assistance of $4,500 a year, but there was a loud enough uproar from the military, veterans and lawmakers that President Obama signed a bill in late March instructing the Pentagon to find money elsewhere in its budget to support this popular program. The children of soldiers who died in Iraq or Afghanistan were not as lucky because their assistance was reduced by $2,133 under the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant Program. Also, students receiving the Teacher Education Assistance (TEACH) grants, which are given to students who agree to serve at least four years in low income schools, were reduced by 12.6 percent.
So why would anyone in their right mind want to be in a job that is constantly under attack like being a teacher for all of our kids? We all know that when there is uncertainty in our job or in our lives, we don't perform up to our abilities. We worry about getting a paycheck at the end of the week, how we are going to pay the mortgage and what affect all of this will have on our family. Uncertainty creates doubt which undermines our performance, and in the case of teachers, will rob our kids of the quality of education they deserve.
With Congress involved, state and local politicians involved, how can one parent or concerned citizen make a difference and help our teachers help our kids? There is a wonderful group, the National Teachers Assistance Organization, that is taking donations for professional assistance for teachers. At Donors Choose, public school teachers post classroom project requests and you can donate to the project that most inspires you. At Start Donating, they match donors with teachers in need of supplies. And at DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 worth of products in May to help teachers across this great country, so please nominate your favorite teacher who deserves our help.
This is also the time ordinary Americans need to be communicating with their representatives in the House and in the Senate. Here is a link to contact your congressperson. Here is a link to contact your senator. No action on their part has caused these crucial programs like Head Start and Special Education to fail our citizens needing the most help. Just about every teacher I have ever known teaches because they want to help others and are passionate about what they teach. We need our teachers to focus on their passion and not have to worry about if they are the next ones to lose their jobs because our political leaders could not act to protect the educational system which for so many years has been the backbone of our society. As our teachers finish this school year and start to prepare for the next school year, let's hope our leaders come to their senses before it is too late for our kids, and in the long run, the future of this country.