Knowing that I have a big mouth, a local teacher called and asked that I publicize the fact that our local schools do not have enough substitute teachers or classroom aides, and that this situation was having a huge impact in the classroom. Another teacher who teaches in the specialized autism program in a nearby public school told me that the lack of support staff had reached such critical levels that neither the students or teachers were safe. Without the right support, kids were having serious meltdowns, and people were getting hurt.
My friend, the local teacher, said that staff in our town were quitting and taking jobs in other towns that paid benefits and higher wages. To help her out, I lit some bombs on the five Facebook pages for our town. (Fun!) A few weeks later, the topic was discussed by the school board. The superintendent said that they didn’t have the funds to increase salaries for support staff. An increase of $2 more per hour would cost the school district a quarter million dollars.
23 thoughts on “The Unraveling of Public Education”
“The superintendent said that they didn’t have the funds to increase salaries for support staff. An increase of $2 more per hour would cost the school district a quarter million dollars.”
What’s the cost to the school district of court cases because classes have to close down or children are excluded?
I don’t like lawsuits as a method of addressing issues — class actions are often a blunt instrument and individual suits often help the individual child (and sometimes at the expense of other children whose parents don’t or can’t sue). But, do think that in some instances lawsuits might be the only tool available.
I wasn’t advocating it as a solution – merely pointing out that it’s a significant risk factor that the superintendent should be taking into account.
Along the ‘cost of taking this action’ vs ‘cost of not taking this action’ spectrum.
If the cost is 250,000 pa – and it saves them 5 million in costs – paying for private schooling, for children unlawfully excluded – because they don’t have the staff (not to mention the associated legal fees) – it ends up sounding like a bargain….
Oh, yeah, I know you didn’t suggest the solution, but I fear that there might not be others.
This assumes that there is a quarter million dollars laying around to be repurposed. That’s just not the case in most places. For us, it’s more like: an increase of $2 more an hour for support staff would mean laying off staff elsewhere. And what staff do we layoff? Janitors? I mean – I suppose we could, but then we wouldn’t be able to do the minimum of cleaning and maintenance. Teachers? Can’t do that – that’s a different lawsuit. Our supply budgets haven’t increased in years, yet the costs of supplies are sky-rocketing, so nothing to cut there. And so on. Believe me – as a school board member, I would LOVE to pay support staff more. I just don’t know where we get the money for that.
I don’t have the answers – as I have no idea what your budgets are….
But, as a board, it certainly sounds as though you’re going to have to do *something* about retaining and/or hiring support staff. Of course, you may be in a geographical area where there are no other jobs around – but it sounds as though wage inflation is full-on in most of the US.
If you can’t cut expenditure from other areas (sport is always my favourite one) – then you’re going to have to increase revenue. Or diminish quality of education and/or exclude children (and face those lawsuits).
Cheap, inclusive and good – you can have any two…..
“…Cheap, inclusive and good – you can have any two……” —> “…Cheap, inclusive and good – you can have at most two….” there, fixed it for you!
Our private school keeps advertising in-house for subs at $12.50 an hour…The nearby frozen custard place offers $11-$13 an hour.
I believe they also often have parents subbing as a volunteer activity.
Do the volunteers teach? or is it supervision? Our kids K-8 didn’t allow parent volunteers in after school activities (except for sports) and I can’t imagine volunteer substitutes.
But, the school is expensive and sells itself as a premium product (though wealthy enough to be both need blind & meet full need for students) and employs a full time substitute teacher.
bj said, “Do the volunteers teach? or is it supervision? Our kids K-8 didn’t allow parent volunteers in after school activities (except for sports) and I can’t imagine volunteer substitutes.”
I’m not sure. It’s probably mostly supervision.
On reflection, some days of the week, the elementary kids have a lot of specials, so on those days, it would be mostly a question of shepherding them to PE or music or art or whatever.
“But, the school is expensive and sells itself as a premium product (though wealthy enough to be both need blind & meet full need for students) and employs a full time substitute teacher.”
That is a good idea.
Laura, you write, Government can’t afford any workers right now – not teachers, not accountants, not form fillers. My guess is that we’re going to be faced with some tough choices in the next year: higher taxes or the continuing erosion of government services.
There’s a limited number of accountants. Many government services require skills that are in short supply. Which is to say, what does government do when the people they would need to hire to make a program run simply don’t exist, at any price?
My sister told me this week the woman who does her brows at the salon just gave her notice. She’s a registered nurse, for whom this is a side job. Gas prices are killing her. She can now pick up much better paying work closer to home. I know nothing about beauty, so I’m willing to consider brow beautifying to be not a necessary service. However, many essential jobs are done by people who live in less expensive towns.
If I controlled the state, I would encourage the construction of new housing. Not McMansions, but small capes. In good school districts. Local zoning codes have created a very poisonous situation, in which young people who do physical work can’t afford to live in towns with good schools. I’ve lived my entire life in this state, so I’ve seen it change. I do wonder when people will see sense.
And the urbanists want to get rid single family zoning and argue that affordable housing will be created that way. They’re experimenting in Minneapolis: https://www.planning.org/blog/9219556/measuring-the-early-impact-of-eliminating-single-family-zoning-on-minneapolis-property-values/
Our neighborhood is replacing 2500 square foot houses in 10000 square foot lots with two 5000 square foot houses on 5000 square foot lots (how? by digging basements and creating 3 level houses). Someone I follow posted that his rent has been raised by 25%, if he signs a lease, and 50% if he wants a month to month lease.
I basically in despair on seeing solutions. I’ll still vote for higher taxes (I think money and inequality is a big part of every one of these problems). But I’m also focusing on keeping the people closest to me safe with whatever resources I personally wield, and I hate it.
bj said, “Our neighborhood is replacing 2500 square foot houses in 10000 square foot lots with two 5000 square foot houses on 5000 square foot lots (how? by digging basements and creating 3 level houses).”
I’ve probably told the story here about my in-laws’ old house in suburban Vancouver, BC.
They sold an older 3,000 sq. ft. ranch to a family that scraped it off the lot and replaced it with a 10,000 sq. ft. compound. That’s really the only term for it–it wasn’t a house.
The only thought that makes this half-way tolerable is that the compound is presumably set up for multi-generational living, so it may comfortably accommodate more people than a ranch house.
“If I controlled the state, I would encourage the construction of new housing. Not McMansions, but small capes. In good school districts.”
Down in my section of the state, there are plenty of small-ish capes. And they’re selling for unbelievable prices. The house across the street from me recently sold for $550K. My house is, according to Zillow, worth almost $600K. WTF? Our other house , which we bought overpriced in 2006, which is why we had to rent it out instead of selling it, is a 3 BR ranch, tiny, and it’s allegedly worth almost $400K. I’m not sure more and smaller houses will help for the young people. I think what could help is less inequality of school districts, so the big beautiful old houses in some of the sketchier neighborhoods/towns/cities can be occupied by families who could use the space.
That said, Twitterati are telling me that the housing bubble is about to burst. Oh well. I’m not selling either house any time soon anyway (we like our tenants and I undercharge them on rent anyway because I haven’t gone full capitalist).
Our neighborhood is in the process of standing down the county’s property tax assessments. There was an enormous outburst of neighborliness when we got our assessments and were comparing notes.
The county just lopped $300k off of our house’s tax assessment–before they backed off, our taxes were all set to jump $6k in the course of a single calendar year.
I have no idea what they were smoking downtown. I also often wonder what exactly is happening to all the extra money that’s flowing in now.
There’s a ton of construction going on downtown and near downtown in areas with so-so schools. (I’m not 100% sure what all of the construction is for, but it’s higher density–hotels and/or apartments.) We were driving through near-downtown today due to a marathon detour and I noted some signs of residential gentrification, in addition to the downtown development that is starting to encroach. This historically black neighborhood, which had been in decline for many years, is not going to know what hit it.
According to an inflation calculator, $400,000 today is the equivalent of ~$278,000. So if those figures are close to the purchase price and current value, the house value has only been keeping up with inflation.
In my area, the overwhelming control on dwelling prices is length of commute into DC/Arlington/Tyson’s. So dwellings sell for WAY over cost of construction. The most important part of the cost is the land cost. We have ‘missing middle’ advocates pushing for smaller lot sizes, though as far as I can tell that will drop the cost to second-year associate from partner level, not get even close to teacher or cop. Only way I see to get them into line (except for widespread subsidies, and those have to come from somewhere) is to enable easier transportation.
Off topic, came across this serendipitiously, don’t know anything about it but looked a little like what you/Laura are interested in:
Somewhat on topic, the right-wing noise machine needs another focus now that they won’t be able to use reproductive rights to keep their folks riled up. I think they are trying out public schools; “government schools” already were a minor target.
Two articles for your perusal:
1) on the use of floating substitutes in WA public schools (Hechinger, so includes national stories): https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/substitute-teachers-vanished-so-wa-schools-turned-to-new-ideas/
2) on a free community college plan for 2 years or 90 credits: https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/washington-is-offering-more-college-aid-than-ever-plus-new-admission-guarantees-will-students-buy-in/
I think you should be able to see the articles without a Seattle Times subscription.
I think floating substitutes are going to be necessary in cities with employment opportunities (less sure about non-city areas and their management of a teaching workforce) an I am interested in how the “Seattle Promise” (2 years of free community college) would work for students who aren’t taking full time course loads or aren’t on a direct college track.
The Seattle Promise free community college is not means tested, so my son, who attended a pubic HS would be eligible, if he were going to attend CC.
They’ve been using permanent subs on Long Island. My sister was a permanent sub in at an elementary school in her district. It’s often seen as a stepping stone to a permanent teaching job. Unfortunately, my sister got cancer and that ruined that plan.
However, this line in the article is kind of weird/chilling:
“Jay Midwood, chief of human capital for the district”
??? Human capital? ???
When a friend of mine and I were teaching over two decades ago and then some, we knew public education was already in trouble. With time, through research, the problems were there while we ourselves were growing up, in school, though it was better. We have passed, as we see it, the point of no return. There is no public education. There is only public diseducation, for we saw the longer students were in school, the less capable they became, the worse their knowledge based. We were playing catch-up each and every year. At this point, either a quality private or home school is the only way.
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