Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 17 2009

Crazy Week

It has been an exhausting, crazy week. I worked all last weekend. I also realized yesterday that I have literally worked at home every single day since coming back from Colorado on January 3. So, I’m not working this weekend. My bag is in the closet. I’m taking some well-deserved freedom. I even saw a movie last night (gasp!).

On Tuesday, the teacher’s union called a mandatory general meeting, so school ended at 1:00 so we could all drive over to a massive church for this meeting. We were there to hear about the Governor’s proposed budget cuts. Many rumors have been flying around that we will have to shorten our school year by a week, we will have to give up our nice 20 students to 1 teacher ratio and go for something more like 30-to-one, and that we will lose all auxiliary programs. We learned that basically, any proposal that Governor Schwarzenegger has come up with so far would require changing either California Education Code (that mandates a certain number of instructional days per year) or state law (that mandates a 20-to-one ratio in K-2 classrooms.)

Ah. So, issue here is what it always is: the State Legislature hasn’t done anything yet. Now, I haven’t lived in California very long. I don’t know much about the political history of this state, but seriously folks, something has got to change. I come from a state where things get done. (They might be totally misguided and ultimately bad for the state, but at least they’re trying.) Here, all we ever hear about is how State Democrats and State Republicans aren’t able to compromise. Really? You like to sit around all day long and argue, while the state is going you-know-where in a hand basket? In the State of the State Address the governor proposed that the lawmakers stop getting paychecks for everyday that the budget is late. Now, there’s an idea. Light a fire under them!

Then, on Wednesday we received word that the district was going to implement a spending freeze on Friday, which means that all extra spending has to stop. What that really means is that no paid interventions can happen, as well as getting paid for any trainings or anything I might be going to. There was debate as to whether we could do intervention on a volunteer basis, particularly what would happen if some teachers decided to continue intervention for free and some decided to stop. That all ended up not mattering, though, because on Thursday night we got an email that said that “in light of additional research and clarification” paid interventions can continue beyond the spending freeze (but all other spending must stop.) I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what other research they were doing (maybe they researched the fact that they are PI 3 and face state action if scores don’t improve) but either way I’m just happy that I’m going to be paid for the extra 4 hours every week that I teach. That’s an extra $350 per month, which is pretty nice to have around. I would have ended up teaching those extra hours for free, because I feel a strong moral obligation to teach all my students how to read, but on the other hand, not being paid for work done at work is utterly ridiculous. Situations like these make me realize the importance of unions. To a teacher’s union, improving work conditions means getting paid a competitive salary. Teachers don’t get Christmas bonuses, they don’t get a substantial pay raise every year, and their salary already starts out significantly lower than jobs in other fields. For many teachers, teaching extra hours is one way to make up that deficit. For the district or state to take that money away due to mismanagement of funds is just criminal.

All the craziness of this week has given me the sense that no one is really in charge. I wish I could say that I’m not surprised by that, but I am. Here’s hoping that things can start changing on Inauguration Day!

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    About this Blog

    "All that is gold does not glitter, not all who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

    Region
    Bay Area
    Grade
    Elementary School
    Subject
    Elementary Education

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