To the Editor:
As a lifelong educator, I am deeply troubled and concerned about the budgetary cuts in funding for public education in New York State. I know I am not alone.
I have watched with growing apprehension all the elements that have led to the point where school districts are being forced to request money from district taxpayers -- percentage increases that go beyond state-set limits -- in order to provide a decent and substantial education to all students in their care.
I can’t imagine how difficult that decision is, especially in these financially trying times. I become even more frustrated when I read opinion letters that call for decreases in school spending by reduction of staff and salaries/benefits or even programming/required services for students.
It seems to me that the people offering those options either don’t have a clear understanding of what is needed to provide a meaningful education for our young people, or they are grasping at straws to find ways to make cuts that will appear workable on paper.
Most often there is a major gap between what something looks like on paper and what it is really like. I don’t think the people who are making these suggestions are evil people or hard-hearted. They too are as concerned as I am.
At the same time, I wish I could reach out to them to help them understand how deeply their suggestions cut into the very meat and bones of education while attempting to cut what appears to be the fat.I need for them to understand the impact of their suggested changes – the impact on the educators charged with making each day in the life of students developmentally meaningful and on the students themselves who deserve nothing less than the best we can offer them.
Educators (teachers, teaching assistants, counselors, administrators, school–related personnel) don’t come lightly to their positions. To decide to pass along and model one’s knowledge, skills and talents to succeeding generations in a way that will move society forward takes commitment, caring, and personal sacrifice.
While not every educator can claim to be 100% successful every day, every educator I know has spent numerous hours beyond the school day on efforts related to students; has carried home the burden of student issues that inevitably come up in the course of the day; has fretted over decisions that had to be made quickly because it’s a situational result of working with multiple people at once; has had to sacrifice personal/family time to provide the best for the students in his/her charge; has placed himself/herself in a role that includes public attention to his/her work; and has had to face the sometimes scornful, always memorable responses of some community members who want to cut his/her job, his/her salary and benefits or the programming and services he/she has worked hard to provide for students.
For educators, it feels like getting slapped in the face for doing one’s best. For students, it looks like fewer options, larger classes, and fewer opportunities to learn and grow. Nothing good comes of that, and the only winner is a black line on a budget.
We need to keep in mind that decisions made today affect everyone in the future. There is nothing more valuable in life than our health, our safety, and the education of our children.
We need to make spending decisions that reflect those values and that support our future. I hope my words have reached those of you who most need to understand their impact.
Carol Ann Kissam, Colton