Budget Cut Season Again…Are We Outraged or Immune?

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com

Full disclosure: I struggled to write an article for this month’s newsletter because despite the difficulties inherent in public schools, I like to think anyway, that I inspire parents to be part of the solution.

But when I looked at the latest edu-news feeds, I’ve got to be honest with you, even I found it hard to stay upbeat. Or write anything. And deeply question what I’m doing going out there talking up the public school options. (Not one but three teachers fired this week for sexual misconduct, more ongoing budget woes, another shortened school year, more layoffs, class size increases, and more taxes on the horizon.) Please. Where’s the good news for chrissakes!

Regardless of what you believe about magnets or charters or neighborhood schools, they’re all facing difficulties in this financial-politico landscape. (Is that a word?) Our schools have sustained an onslaught of consecutive cuts for the past 5-6 years. Now we’re at risk for another round of cuts.

But just as I was sinking lower into despondency, it occurred to me, hey, it’s February. We’ve seen this cycle before:

The District presents the worst-case scenario, blames the State, urges us to write the Governor and our members of Congress.

Then the union blasts back with outrage, proposes a rally and/or walk-out, accuses the District of mishandling funds and urges parents to write/call/fax the Superintendent and our school board members.

The Congress is in a budgetary stalemate between the Democrats wanting to increase taxes and the Republicans wanting to cut spending.

We the parents, after writing the Governor, our Congress members, the Superintendent, and our School Board (or some electronic version thereof) and driving across town in rush hour traffic to attend some “very important” meeting about “school reform” only to find no meaningful answers whatsoever, watch our principal break down in front of us at the thought of more devastating cuts, so we scurry to make lemonade out of lemons and we do the best we can.

Didn’t we go through this last year? And the year before? And the year before that? Did any of those letters, or phone calls, or meetings, or lobbying trips up to Sacramento have any impact?

Excuse me if I sound less than outraged and more like meh. Tired of it.

Our kids are already in the system. This year. Not beginning next year, or the year after, or next decade when things could turn around. We have to make the most of it.

Strapping on our hard hats we pack their lunches and their backpacks, oversee homework, get them out the door every day and deposit them at school hoping for the best. Hoping the sky won’t fall in on them, at least not this year.

Journeying down this path is like living with an alcoholic who inevitably comes home from a bender, broke, raging at the top of his lungs, waking up the kids, slinging punches having spent all the rent and grocery money. It’s total dysfunction. Why do we continually put up with this?

When will we say, “enough!”

So for those who don’t know, the District scenario goes like this:

With one hand they present the worst-case scenario – no, not the magnets, not the arts, not 50 kids in a classroom! – get everybody all up in arms, then with the other hand slip in some slimy compromise that by comparison somehow seems more palatable, like some shady wheeler-dealer with a thick accent, “For you my friend, I give good price.”

Oh look, a parcel tax.

More furlough days.

Less instructional days. 

Excuse me if I sound cynical, it’s just that I’ve been a few rounds on this carousel. I’m not a psychic but I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict the May outcome in advance:

Threatened:  Class size increase 30:1 in K-3, +3 in 4th and 5th (currently 24:1 K-3, 32-36:1 4-5th)
Actual:  26:1 in K-3, +1 in 4th-5th

Threatened: 5400 Certificated/2600 Classified RIFs
Actual: 1800 total RIFs

Threatened: all transpo buses including magnets and special needs in 2013
Actual: bus routes consolidated, must live minimum 6 miles from school campus (currently 3 mi)

Threatened: 100% of Elementary Arts Funding
Actual: 50% of Elementary Arts Funding – resulting in shorter arts cycles

Threatened: LA parcel tax
Actual: Parcel tax will fail. More cuts will be inevitable. 

The bigger question is how do we stop this insanity. Where does it end??!! These are OUR schools, OUR children, OUR future. They deserve better and we must demand it from all parties.

As I sit and write this on Superbowl Sunday, where millions are being spent on advertising moments, and millions are watching the game with their snacks and beer, it occurs to me that we  – as a city, state, nation – are not broke. We just spend our dollars on other priorities. So when is the priority going to be our collective children? And more importantly, what are we going to do about it!

I know things have to fall apart before they can be rebuilt. I know you get what you focus on, so if all we focus on is the doom and gloom, then surprise, we get doom and gloom and feel powerless to come up with creative solutions. I also know that as long as we give our power away to those in charge, they will continue to take advantage and be self-serving.

I also know that within each one of us, no matter what our age or socio-economic status, lives a spark of something unique and powerful. We each come here with our little (or not so little) light, with our unique gifts to bear. And as we gather together, united, we are mighty, full of potential, and yes, unstoppable.

I can’t help but believe that in the big picture, the old byzantine structures are crumbling in order to make way for something new to rise up through the ashes. And although I can’t quite see it, and it’s challenging from this vantage point, I know in my bones that it’s coming.

Parents, keep your kids close. Gather ’round your classrooms, your schools, your communities and together we will weather this storm. This is the time for critical thinking and creative problem-solving. It’s the time for teamwork and collaboration…the very same attributes many schools aspire to cultivate in their mission statements.

Now is the time to put those attributes to use.


Want to use this article? You can as long as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
Tanya Anton is the creator of GoMamaGuide.com helping parents demystify and navigate their public school options in Los Angeles. To read more articles by Tanya or to learn about her Guidebooks, House Chats, Consultations, and Seminars, visit GoMamaGuide.com or email us at GoMama@mac.com.
© 2012 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved. 
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