From Too Many to Too Few

From Too Many to Too Few

In 2008, the United States stopped working. In a perennial gambit for more profit, banks world-wide began making transactions and investments with money that didn’t strictly exist. When the last bank left holding the bag–an empty bag with a $400 billion price tag–came up short, the economy crashed. Overnight, people lost jobs, homes, and much more.

What is the government to do in such a situation? How could it effectively revive a system that had already failed? Washington decides to borrow $700 billion from U.S. citizens for an “economic stimulus package” to help the banking world survive. However for the people paying that $700 billion, there was no government bailout.

California schools were hit hard. In order to operate, schools receive a combination of state and local taxes, so when the economy crashed, tax payments–and therefore money to operate schools–plummeted too.

According to the Center for Public Education, by 2010, failing school budgets caused teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, and eliminated essential elements of a school, like instructional programs, extracurricular activities, field trips, and more.

Schools in the Folsom Cordova School District were no exception. “We were cutting everything,” says Kelly Hillesland, an English teacher at Vista Del Lago High School. “We were cutting days the kids would be in school. Lots of teachers lost their jobs. All of the new teachers programs shut down. For five or six years, there were no new teachers coming through the system, and if they were, they couldn’t get a job. It was a scary time.”

Furthermore, the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the calamity seemed to permeate circles everywhere. “Everyone I talked to had the same issue,” said Hillesland. “All of Folsom was upside-down in their houses–owing more than their home is worth. Even if a home sold or underwent foreclosure, the owner could still end up owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid loans. It was really scary because everyone was feeling like they were super vulnerable.”

Now, the economy has seemingly regained its traction and California voters approved an additional $74.5 billion in new taxes devoted to public education. However, schools are still failing to flourish.

A new crisis, this time caused by ballooning costs and rapidly increasing class sizes, is causing administrators to cut teacher salaries as well as other crucial parts of their budgets in the interest of staying fiscally stable. According to the California Teachers Association, “California is ranked dead last (50th) in student-to-teacher ratios, and would need 100,000 additional teachers right now just to bring that ratio to the national average,” and it will only get worse. The education system will need to hire 106,000 new teachers in the coming years just to maintain current staffing levels. Unfortunately, “the number of people earning a teaching credential, and enrollment in teacher-preparation programs in California are both on the decline.”

Since the crash, Wall St and Main St have fully recovered, but the schools have not. Following the cuts in 2008, teachers didn’t re-saturate the education system. Programs were not repaired, let alone adjusted to suit the and ever-increasing student population which now threatens to break the already weakened pillars of our education system.

Whether or not the current school system will persist isn’t necessarily up in the air – it will – but in light of the increasing weight of the future, it is almost certain that school will begin to look different.