Beware the Ides of March…

I wrote this post in my head at about 4am this Saturday morning, when I awoke with anxiety about next school year. The past few weeks, every teacher’s lounge and every staff meeting has been doom-and-gloom about the state of our school district’s education budget being slashed. Symbolically, every March 15th, in budget shortfall years, staff get “you might be laid off” letters. This year, we may lose some school psychologists for the first time in my 9 years in the profession. It’s bad, people.

I may even be laid off due to an administrative rule that puts me in the same category as a first year employee, despite 9 years of experience. I switched districts and I worked part time some of my years, so basically none of my years count in seniority. Awesome. The way layoffs go down in a school district is not by performance, evaluations, or any other reasonable criteria, but by “last hired, first fired” or in my case, “let go because you worked part time a few years.” Some of the most talented teachers I know are in their first or second years in the profession, and they are the first to be cut.

So friends, I sincerely hope that I don’t have to change the name of my blog from “Notes from the School Psychologist Blog” to “Notes from the Former School Psychologist Who Now Works in the Private Sector with no Health Insurance but Still Believes in Public Education and Can’t Work There With Kids Who Need it Blog.” Not as catchy.

Even if I am spared my job, the budget picture is bleak. My school principals have had to cut most support staff. That means that my placement at my middle school would be only four hours a week and my placement at my elementary school would also be a whopping four hours. Goodbye counseling services, goodbye teacher and parent consultation, parent support groups, counseling groups, prevention activities, and all the things I love. Hello testing one kid, writing a report, going to a meeting and leaving. I will be sad to tell my students I see in counseling that I can no longer see them. Sorry about your abandonment issues, poppits.

My schools have also had to cut all supply budgets. No copier repair funds, no supplies. What enrages me is that I bet Goldman Sachs has never spent a day without a functioning copier or pens and pencils. I bet the Bank of America CEO and his cronies have never had to share one pen with three other people in a cramped janitor’s closet. Why can we bail out the foolios who got us in the recession and turn our backs on the students and teachers? Oh, and how much are we spending in Afghanistan again? Ah that’s right 6.7 billion per month. Do you know what California schools could do with just one month of the war budget? I rarely get all political on this blog, but I see how our kids and school staff will be suffering at no fault of their own, and I have a deep sense of sadness and anger.

I wish I could put a more positive spin on this post. All I can do is to encourage anyone who lives in a city where there will be a special election about funding for schools, please, please, I beg you to get your family and friends to vote for a small increase in tax to keep public schools functioning. I just hope our neighbors aren’t penny-wise and pound-foolish. Investment in smaller class sizes, mental health professionals, quality teachers, and supplies to learn prevents school failure and the high cost of special education, not to mention the societal cost of drop out.

As for the Ides of March, I will be stalking the mailman on the 15th to see if I have been stabbed in the back 23 times by the Congress, just like Julius Caesar. Stay tuned…

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Comments on Beware the Ides of March…

  1. Anonymous says:

    nicely stated. In Texas, it's just a bleak.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As a first year, part-time, teacher in San Francisco, I already have a nice vintage pink slip all ready to wear under my dress on the 15th. I may as well meet a bleak and demoralizing situation with matching clothing!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for enraging me… again. My local district (that I live in, pay taxes to, and do practicum work for) is cutting all positions with the words "instructional strategist" and "interventionist" in the title. Superintendent and his wife (who sketchily changed her title this year to avoid the impending cut) are still getting their 5% raise on their combined $350k/year income. All while the people who are providing the best services (sorry classroom teachers, my bias is showing) are getting cut, having salaries cut, or at minimum cost-of-living raises frozen. Fat cats indeed. As a grad student I'm concerned about my future in the profession for reasons you outlined. My husband is urging me to look for I/O consulting jobs… or governemnt contract work. Neither would be personally satisfying, but the paychecks would be huge and not likely to be cut. Here I've been thinking its so bad in Texas due to our overwhelmingly Republican leaders… but you are suffering there too. Our whole country is suffering…. except the fat cats, as previously mentioned. I offer you encouragement and hope. Even though I haven't met you, I'll be thinking of you and many others I know who are fearful of March 15th. I hope that if you cannot stay there you will find something NEARLY as satisfying until the large-scale financial situation changes. For our sake, I hope you keep blogging. Okay, long comment over. I'm going to go rant and rave to my husband…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Not any better in Florida right now. We have our own insanity that goes above and beyond any other state, but now it's just tempting to wave the white towel and shout UNCLE!!!

  5. Dr. Tonya says:

    I think it is just as bleak everywhere. Thanks for summarizing our frustrations in your post. Blows my mind to think that corporate fat cats (especially those involved in any of the bailouts) are sitting pretty (and even received bonuses ?!?!) despite being irresponsible but schools that are so desperately trying to educate the future workforce in America are being cut to pieces! I am so sick of hearing how education professionals are "overpaid" since we have "so many breaks" and "summers off" – not to mention *only* have to work from 8-4 each day! Don't even get me started!

    In my school district in OK, the psychs are worried as well – putting it mildly. When the district received ARRA (stimulus) funding 2 years ago, all of the psych salaries were moved out of the general budget and paid by ARRA funds – since, supposedly, we were the "safest" positions to do that with given there was "no way" the district could cut our positions as we are vital to maintaining compliance and securing ongoing IDEA funding. Those funds end this school year. With budgets looking bleaker and bleaker, nobody knows what is going to happen when they attempt to move our salaries back over to the general budget for next year. I am also the low woman on the proverbial Totem pole. This is only my 2nd year in OK but 6th in the profession. If all of the salaries of current psychs cannot be funded by the general budget next year, I'll be the first to be cut despite being the ONLY psych in the district (largest in my state) to be certified (or trained, for that matter) on the ADOS or in conducting comprehensive autism evaluations. I serve as an "autism consultant" for the district in addition to serving my 3 schools given I lead an Autism Eval Team for 4 years before leaving TX to move to OK.

    At one of my schools, we are each given 2 reams of paper per semester. That is it. Teachers bring their paper with them each and every time they have to make copies or print. As a psych, I'm limited to 500 copies/print pages per month TOTAL, and I serve 3 schools (an elementary, middle, and a Mid-High which has grades 7-12). There was no budget for supplies this year so I went an bought my own rather than scrounge. We're supposed to keep "confidential folders" for our spec ed kids which can be hard to do if schools do not provide folders! Simple pens, paper, tape, staplers, legal pads (to take notes at all of those "critical meetings") are so scarce this year that I just bring my own.

    I would like one member of Congress try to function without their personal staff – or even without their admin asst – for a week before deciding to slash education funding. As stated, have them also try to function without basic supplies needed to do their jobs – including functioning printers, copiers, and laptops. Let their copier/printer run out of toner and be told "sorry, we don't have any money left in the budget for toner this year" when a huge part of your job is printing legal paperwork for special education, evaluations, intervention plans, etc.

    Forget "Waiting for Superman" – I'm waiting for enough money so that Maslow's basic Heirarchy of Needs can be met professionally!

    Sorry for the long response!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Someone told me once, "teachers eat their young". It's interesting how true this statement is sometimes.

  7. What also burns me is how much money we waste on technology. I know we need technology, but so many times I've tested in a room full of unused computers/monitors/printers/scanners. For example, my state switched from a paper and pencil test to a computer test that the students will take three times a year. That's great, but that's a lot more computers needed for the schools! All those computers in one school could probably have funded the bilingual paraprofessional we so desperately need and lost. We're spending a lot of money on things to measure the kids' progress that we can't afford the people we need to help them make the progress!

  8. Sioux says:

    It is strange times (and sad times) for education. As a classroom teacher, I don't know how much they can heap on my plate before I collapse under the weight and the frustration…

  9. Anonymous says:

    Our district contracted out all psychologists to a test, report, and don't even attend meetings status. It has been exceptionally difficult for teams, unfair for psychologists, and truly unfair to students. The psychologists are told not to offer suggestions outside of what they write in their reports, as the schools don't want to end up paying extra.

    Our social work services were cut in half, which was an exceptionally short list prior. 10,000 students with 5 social workers means social workers are stretched to the limit, students are making less progress, and many life issues are interfering with student education.

    Beware, there are cuts and limitations all over. If you have a teacher, support staff, or educator that you respect and think is doing a good job – let them know, support them, and advocate for them. Most educators want so badly to do an amazing job helping as many students as they can!

  10. luckeyfrog says:

    It is amazing to me to see how many states are suffering in this way.

    At my school in Indiana, we don't have a full-time school psychologist. Basically, she works for a few schools and comes in for testing and meetings (IEP and RTI). Our counselor is really the one meeting with kids- and her job is being cut down next year.

    It's a sad situation. I hope that things work out for you- and your students.

  11. S. Wilson says:

    As a school psych in OR, it's the same here too. I could stand and shout out the same message on my Soap Box every single day. A lot of my fellow school psychs are ALREADY experiencing burn out (we've only been graduated for 2.5 years!) due to their lack of kid time. It makes me so very sad, and so very worried that Education and Mental Health of our youngsters doesn't appear to be a high priority in our government. Just one more example of how reactive (instead of proactive) systems can be!

  12. Debra says:

    Public school is sucking big time in Arizona, as well. The legislature recently dismantled tenure, meaning that teachers have no job security at ALL. We also do not have to be informed until the end of MAY as to whether or not we will be offered a contract for the following year.

    I can't imagine how much worse it can get. This year I have 37 kindergarten students. Yes. 37. Read it again. I'll wait.

    37 Kindergarten students. I am back down to my 2nd year teacher salary in my 10th year of teaching. I have no job security. I have to buy my own pencils, books, paper, erasers, Band-Aids, and CHAIRS (because there simply are not any more chairs in our entire building)–at the cost of nearly $5,000.00 of my own money this year.

    Our district recently hired some new "administrators" at the bargain basement price of 50-100 thousand per newbie, but in order to save money, our air conditioning has been basically shut off. It is not unusual to be teaching my 37 students and watch the thermostat climb to well over 90 degrees.

    We cannot afford much-needed services for our kiddos. A 2nd grader with Down Syndrome who is not potty-trained is in a regular classroom and not being offered any services. We have children who are homidicidal (and I am not using the word lightly, ironically, or in order to exaggerate the situation) or suicidal. Again, no help.

    My heart is with the classroom teacher, since we are in the trenches every single minute of every single school day. But I know that we desperately need interventionists and counselors and psychologists to help get our kids ready to learn, and a bad situation is going to get much worse if we lose all of them.

    It's looking bleak all over. I love my kiddos and I still believe I have the best job in the world, but I think this is going to have to be my last year.

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