With 34 states making yet another wave of budget cuts in K-12 education, school children and their families are increasingly vulnerable as the Great Recession leaves the social safety net in tatters.
Soon, even more public school employees will likely join the ranks of the unemployed. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 44 states plus the District of Columbia are eliminating, freezing, or cutting their workforces.
States and school districts are also mandating time off without pay, increasing insurance co-pays, and enacting a host of other stringent cost-cutting measures.
Sadly, some elected officials are using state budget crises as political cover to push agendas that have little or nothing to do with educating children well, particularly schools that serve higher percentages of students who are poor, disabled, or English language learners.
In North Carolina, for example, the state legislature is expected to adopt Senate Bill 8, which shifts funding from public to charter schools for services like transportation and child nutrition that charter schools aren’t required by law to provide.
Read other recent columns from Nora Carr:
Tying layoff notices to passage of a bill gutting teacher tenure laws, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has ignited massive protests and a national debate regarding the efficacy of teacher unions and public employees’ collective bargaining rights.
Increasingly, teachers and other public employees are being blamed for every social ill, from poor student health to massive state budget deficits. Meanwhile, films like the pro-charter school Waiting for Superman paint all educators with the broad brush of incompetence and indifference.
When 70 percent of American voters no longer have school-aged children, educators no longer can rely on happy parents and thriving students to spread the word about the great things happening in their classrooms and schools.
Unfortunately, the information vacuum created by changing demographics and a radically altered media landscape has been filled by naysayers and critics. As a result, many educators don’t recognize their own experiences when public schools are discussed in the media and online, or portrayed in film.
Regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum, this much is clear: Educators need to tell their stories and make their voices heard over the pundit-driven media din.
Social media networks like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn are a good place to start. Free and easy to use, with micro blogs typically limited to 140-character messages, social media networks can be updated on the go from smart phones, iPads, and other mobile devices.