Unlike Bob Marley’s reggae music, when budget cuts “hit” a public school, they hurt.
Consider the case of Philadelphia’s Bodine High School for International Affairs. The public high school lost over 10% of its teachers this year, and the school’s students and teachers acknowledge that the loss has resulted in a challenging teaching and learning environment.
Last week, I joined ED’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Shelton at Bodine High to meet with its passionate and hopeful students and teachers. With their share of the $30 billion for teacher jobs in President Obama’s American Jobs Act, the Bodine community hopes that their teachers can be retained or even restored, thereby alleviating the stress create by recent cuts. What does that stress look like?
During our visit, five students described how the loss of teachers caused disruptions, including:
- Fewer teachers are available for formal and informal collaboration with students.
- The number of study halls have decreased.
- A drop in the number of clubs and extra-curricular activities offered this year because of faculty cuts.
Both students and teachers feel like they are less able to create the dynamic learning environment that engages the community and fosters success. Several Bodine teachers described how the cuts had affected collaboration among peers and time available to create solutions.
When it comes to teacher solutions, the Blueprint for Reform is very clear about teacher professionalism. If teachers have the time and resources to develop sustainable solutions to the challenges that our schools face, all of our schools will be better off. Shelton encouraged the students and teachers to share their solutions with each other, with the hope that the sustained collaboration, in itself, could enrich the relationships within the school. Mr. Shelton also asked the participants to consider the benefits of the American Jobs Act that would preserve 400,000 teachers jobs across the US and over 14,000 teachers’ jobs in Pennsylvania alone.
When it comes to teacher professionalism, what solutions have you come up with that can help enrich and sustain your school? Let us know in the comments below.
Gamal D. Sherif
is a teacher at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pa., and a 2011-2012 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow