There was an interesting letter to the editor in our wonderful local paper The Herald here yesterday. The writer nailed it spot on, so I want to share it here. On the same page as this “letter to the editor” was a cartoon outline of child’s head. Inside the shadowed head, a oval circle dotted line with the distinct shape of scissors cutting along it, removing what could be interpreted as the brain. The text read something to the effect “Here is the next cut from the education budget.” I wish I had saved yesterday’s paper to snap a photo of it.
As those of you in SC consider primaries and campaigns for upcoming state elections, remember this. If you have a chance, ask candidates about their stance on school funding. If it is an incumbent running for re-election, ask them specifically about Act 388 passed in 2006.
Thank you…for your recent letter expressing dismay at the painful local economy. Mr. H correctly states we are in the “worst economic condition in the 5th Congressional District in a long time.” However, things are bad not only in the 5th District, but also all over South Carolina and the U.S., and we need not look all the way to Washington for the cause. Most of the current financial woes in South Carolina were caused by our state Legislature when it passed Act 388 in 2006.
This act causes immediate and future financial problems for our state. The immediate problems are the loss to the local economy of the dollars earned by those state employees whose salaries are reduced or jobs lost. In Rock Hill alone, the public school district office has lost 20 percent of its personnel and 2 percent of the teachers already. Winthrop University and public school teachers and administrators have been furloughed. More losses will occur due to recent funding decreases, and still further education budget cuts are being considered by the Legislature.
The future problems caused by educational and infrastructure losses in South Carolina are massive. There is a fundamental connection between education and economic success, which was recognized by the 1977 state Legislature when it passed the Education Finance Act. Unfortunately, the state has funded the public schools at the required level only eight of the last 32 years. Winthrop’s funding from the state has been cut from 40 percent of its budget to 13 percent over the last 20 years. Also, there is still talk of closing two-year post-secondary schools, even though most of us are served daily by graduates of York Tech and 65 percent of future jobs in South Carolina are expected to require a two-year degree.
Act 388 must be rescinded or it will continue to wreak havoc.
The source of my tirade
So now I refer back to my previous post from a few days ago (PD on your time, your own dime), as I bemoaned many teacher librarians being denied the opportunity to attend our lone state library conference, the only in state targeting specialized professional development for school librarians.
Can they really do that–afraid so
SC contracts vary in wording, so I cannot say what the phrasing is exactly that gives administrators the right to say no to personal days used for professional development, even if it is self funded, but school policy generally says personal days must be requested no less than two weeks in advance, and must have administrative approval.
Winners and losers across the board
Budget shortfalls have reduced the amount of money schools have for substitutes. Some say that should not effect a school librarian, as typically these kinds of staff don’t need substitutes. The school librarian, guidance counselor, speech clinician and more positions are not ones that can really be covered by using a substitute. (Unless these positions are in a fixed schedule position that would mean breaches in supervision, these positions typically do not warrant a substitute.)
But teachers have been told over and over there is no money for substitutes, and so they are being denied attendance to their PD opportunities that take them away from school. My guess is that administrators are telling all faculty/staff members “no” to be fair in these budget-tight times. That is me trying to look at it from the only logical explanation I can come up with. I’m still very much opposed to the idea that one cannot use personal days as they see fit though.
I know a friend who says their school has all but eliminated substitutes. The staff are required to sacrifice their planing time to sit in a class where a teacher is absent. The ones who are frequently absent are asked to sub in a planning period more than those who have few absences. He says that teacher attendance this year has dramatically improved because no one wants to have to use their planning time to cover another absent staff member’s class.
So who is suffering? In the end it is our students. If we cannot attend state department of education endorsed professional development opportunities so that we might build and enhance our teacher toolbox, our kids are the ones who lose.
More on Act 388 in the news/online:
- Repeal Act 388 August 12, 2009
- ACT 388: Property tax law limits options for area schools September 21, 2009
- S.C. paying piper for Act 388 tax cuts January 14, 2009
FlickrCC Image: ‘Money Hand‘