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How to fight back against devastating budget cuts

As massive state budget cuts loom, educators should use social media networks to make their voices heard

At least 34 states are making yet another wave of cuts to K-12 education.

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:

Recognizing the warning signs for teen bullying, suicide

Can eBooks help bridge achievement gaps?

Demographic shifts require changes in school communication

How to avoid committing social media gaffes

How to tailor your school site for mobile web users

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.

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Comments:

  1. tom burkard

    March 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    So all this concern about dysfunctional schools can just be swept aside with a few tweets? Are you really sure that it has all been concocted by a few right-wing nutters promoting charter schools?

    The best teachers I know already work long hours, and even take work home with them. If they were to use a few moments of their own time to engage the social media about their schools, I suspect it would really put the cat amongst the pigeons. In England, the teachers’ comments on the Times Educational Supplement blog paints a pretty grim picture of our state schools.

    Indeed, I’m saving this article under my Marie Antoinette bookmark for unintentionally-revealing remarks.

  2. tom burkard

    March 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    So all this concern about dysfunctional schools can just be swept aside with a few tweets? Are you really sure that it has all been concocted by a few right-wing nutters promoting charter schools?

    The best teachers I know already work long hours, and even take work home with them. If they were to use a few moments of their own time to engage the social media about their schools, I suspect it would really put the cat amongst the pigeons. In England, the teachers’ comments on the Times Educational Supplement blog paints a pretty grim picture of our state schools.

    Indeed, I’m saving this article under my Marie Antoinette bookmark for unintentionally-revealing remarks.

  3. Mary.Johnson

    March 24, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I agree with the article. In fact, even with class sizes increasing and school resources shrinking, some teachers are actually thriving. Social media has made a huge difference.

    In times of crisis people want to help. An elementary school teacher from a disadvantaged school district asked me for ideas. Most of her students were far below grade level, her class size was almost double from last year, and educational resources were being eliminated. I used social media to reach my friends and professional contacts all across the country and asked if anyone could spend 15-20 minutes a week helping small groups of students in the classroom over the phone. They could help in any subject. The response was amazing. We received more offers for help than we could ever use.

    It worked great. The kids and volunteers were prepared beforehand about the process, goals and rules. The teacher placed a wireless VoIP phone at one of the student work centers, although a cell phone with unlimited minutes was also available as a backup option. She also pressed the speakerphone button so she could also monitor the instruction. The kids loved it and all of the remote volunteers loved it. They could help groups of students for 15-20 minutes without having to leave the office or home. The teacher also scanned and emailed copies of worksheets to the remote volunteers so they could have the same materials that the students were working on. The kids made amazing progress.

    Another teacher needed help with grading papers. Too many students, not enough time. We had volunteers that could help, but the papers had student names on top which prevented them from being sent outside of the classroom. A coworker helped us solve the problem. He created a computer system that electronically removed the student names from the scanned pages, sent the electronic pages to our remote volunteers for online grading and online markup, then it electronically added back the student information accessible only in the classroom. The teacher loved it. In most cases, homework and quizzes were graded within hours. The quick feedback also helped the students.

    A group of remote volunteers linked by social media can accomplish miracles.

    Mary
    Mary.Johnson@HighAchievement.org

  4. Mary.Johnson

    March 24, 2011 at 12:53 am

    I agree with the article. In fact, even with class sizes increasing and school resources shrinking, some teachers are actually thriving. Social media has made a huge difference.

    In times of crisis people want to help. An elementary school teacher from a disadvantaged school district asked me for ideas. Most of her students were far below grade level, her class size was almost double from last year, and educational resources were being eliminated. I used social media to reach my friends and professional contacts all across the country and asked if anyone could spend 15-20 minutes a week helping small groups of students in the classroom over the phone. They could help in any subject. The response was amazing. We received more offers for help than we could ever use.

    It worked great. The kids and volunteers were prepared beforehand about the process, goals and rules. The teacher placed a wireless VoIP phone at one of the student work centers, although a cell phone with unlimited minutes was also available as a backup option. She also pressed the speakerphone button so she could also monitor the instruction. The kids loved it and all of the remote volunteers loved it. They could help groups of students for 15-20 minutes without having to leave the office or home. The teacher also scanned and emailed copies of worksheets to the remote volunteers so they could have the same materials that the students were working on. The kids made amazing progress.

    Another teacher needed help with grading papers. Too many students, not enough time. We had volunteers that could help, but the papers had student names on top which prevented them from being sent outside of the classroom. A coworker helped us solve the problem. He created a computer system that electronically removed the student names from the scanned pages, sent the electronic pages to our remote volunteers for online grading and online markup, then it electronically added back the student information accessible only in the classroom. The teacher loved it. In most cases, homework and quizzes were graded within hours. The quick feedback also helped the students.

    A group of remote volunteers linked by social media can accomplish miracles.

    Mary
    Mary.Johnson@HighAchievement.org

  5. media4math

    March 25, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    For math teachers looking for high-quality, free media resources, please go to http://www.media4math.com. You’ll find videos, PowerPoint presentations, Promethean Flipcharts, and more.

  6. media4math

    March 25, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    For math teachers looking for high-quality, free media resources, please go to http://www.media4math.com. You’ll find videos, PowerPoint presentations, Promethean Flipcharts, and more.