Facing a New Reality
Facing a New Reality
By NEA President Dennis Van Roekel
Fall’s arrival traditionally brings cooler temperatures, shorter days, and students and educators returning to school. This year, it also brings a cloud that hangs over many public schools. Millions of students—and many of you—are returning to a new and disturbing reality of ballooning class sizes, shorter school weeks, and fewer academic programs.
Almost every state and school district in the nation is facing these situations, the inevitable effects of repeated cuts in education funding. As many as 280,000 education jobs are on the chopping block in local districts due to continued state budget constraints. Over the past three years school district layoffs have accelerated, more than tripling since 2008. This is not only a drag on our fragile economy, it’s a severe setback to students.
Last month I visited schools across the country on our “Stand Strong for Students” back-to-school tour. I talked to parents, community leaders, and elected officials. I met NEA members collaborating with their colleagues and others to improve student learning. And I saw first-hand that there is simply no way to absorb these severe budget cuts without harming students, their learning environments, and the programs and services that help them succeed.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In the short term our schools need emergency federal help to repair some of these devastating cuts. Under the President’s proposal now before Congress, we could ensure that schools are able to save educators’ jobs, preserve the regular school day and school year, and restore important programs. And we could renovate and modernize some 35,000 school buildings in a state of disrepair, including community colleges. The average school in the U.S. is more than 40 years old, and conditions in many of these structures are a distraction or worse for students.
Education policies are not mere political rhetoric—they are choices that have real consequences. As educators, we have a front-row seat on how education cuts affect students and schools. We must act on this knowledge and become involved. Those of us who share a commitment to our nation’s children, and a realization that our economic future will only be as strong as the education they receive today, must make our voices heard.
We need to send congress a message—and I need your help.
How are job and funding cuts affecting your school? We’ll share your stories to help members of Congress understand the damaging effects of cuts to our students, vital programs, and services. Share your story at: EducationVotes.org/budgetstories.