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Teachers feel the brunt of educational budget cuts in many ways. In a field that, during good times, about 20% of teachers leave the profession in the first three years, budget cuts mean less incentive for educators to continue teaching. Following are ten ways that budget cuts harm teachers and accordingly their students.
Obviously, this is a big one. Lucky teachers will just have their pay raises reduced to close to nothing. The less fortunate ones will be in school districts that have decided to cut teacher pay. Further, teachers who work extra by taking on summer school classes or running activities that provide supplemental pay will often find their positions eliminated or their hours/pay reduced.
Less Spent on Employee Benefits
Many school districts pay for at least part of their teacher's benefits. The amount that the school districts are able to pay typically suffers under budget cuts. This, in effect, is like a pay cut for teachers.
Less to Spend on Materials
One of the first things to go with budget cuts is the already small discretionary fund that teachers get at the beginning of the year. In many schools, this fund is almost entirely used to pay for photocopies and paper throughout the year. Other ways that teachers might spend this money is on classroom manipulatives, posters, and other learning tools. However, as budget cuts increase more and more of this is either provided by the by the teachers and their students.
Less School-Wide Material and Technology Purchases
With less money, schools often cut their school-wide technology and material budgets. Teachers and media specialists who have researched and asked for specific products or items will find that these will not be available for their use. While this might not seem to be as big an issues as some of the other items on this list, it is just one more symptom of a wider problem. The individuals who suffer most from this are the students who are not able to benefit from the purchase.
Delays for New Textbooks
Many teachers only have outdated textbooks to give their students. It's not unusual for a teacher to have a social studies textbook that is 10-15 years old. In American History, this would mean that two to three presidents have not even been mentioned in the text. Geography teachers often complain about having textbooks that are so outdated that they aren't even worth giving to their students. Budget cuts just compound this problem. Textbooks are very expensive so schools facing major cuts will often hold off on getting new texts or replacing lost texts.
Less Professional Development Opportunities
While this might not seem like a big deal to some, the truth is that teaching just like any profession, becomes stagnant without continual self-improvement. The field of education is changing and new theories and teaching methods can make all the difference in the world for new, struggling, and even experienced teachers. However, with budget cuts, these activities are typically some of the first to go.
Schools facing budget cuts typically begin by cutting their electives and either moving teachers to core subjects or eliminating their positions entirely. Students are given less choice and teachers are either moved around or stuck teaching subjects they are not ready to teach.
With budget cuts come larger classes. Research has shown that students learn better in smaller classes. When there is overcrowding there is a greater likelihood of disruptions. Further, it is much easier for students to fall through the cracks in larger schools and not get the extra help they need and deserve to succeed. Another casualty of larger classes is that teachers are unable to do as much cooperative learning and other more complex activities. They are just too difficult to manage with very large groups.
Possibility of a Forced Move
Even if a school is not closed, teachers might be forced to move to new schools as their own schools reduce their course offerings or increase class sizes. When the administration consolidates classes, if there are not enough students to warrant the positions then those with the lowest seniority typically have to move to new positions and/or schools.
Possibility of School Closures
With budget cuts come school closures. Typically smaller and older schools are closed and combined with larger, newer ones. This happens despite all the evidence that smaller schools are better for students in almost every way. With school closures, teachers are either faced with the prospect of moving to a new school or possibility being laid off from work. What really stinks for older teachers is that when they have taught in a school for a long time, they have built up seniority and are typically teaching their preferred subjects. However, once they move to a new school they usually have to take over whatever classes are available.