Layoffs are hitting more affluent districts like West Bloomfield, Utica and Farmington. Although call backs are always possible as the districts finalize their budgets, check fall enrollment, and consider re-assignments, it is a worry that schools, even in once stable areas, are now resorting to drastic measures to balance budgets.
School boards overwhelmingly support their teachers and want to provide the highest skilled professionals for their communities. So to announce teacher layoffs isn’t just a numbers game, but a backtrack on a promise that schools make to their community and more importantly their students. It is easy to think that this doesn’t affect your child if she or he does not attend one of these districts, but one can be sure that parents of these districts once thought the same way about Detroit or Inkster.
An additional consequence of teacher layoffs anywhere is the impact it has on the greater society. It means the education system is losing highly qualified and educated individuals who, as I explained in an earlier post, went to great lengths and cost to achieve such skills. If a district is willing to layoff teachers, it probably means class size isn’t getting any smaller, materials will dry up, and stress in the school will increase.
Education fundamentally relies on the unique teacher student relationship, and when transformations like this happen, relationships often are severed or strained. For instance, the budget in the Utica district considers making drastic cuts to their alternative education program. It means that some of the most vulnerable students in the district will have to strive for more with less. Disinvestment only leads to a powerless feeling. The alternative program is cited, but do not question that these effects will impact the day to day life of the student in every classroom. This isn’t just for Utica though, it is for every student across the state of Michigan.
It would be a difficult task to find a school district in the state willing to admit that they have not had their schools adversely affected by policy of the last few years. I wrote a piece for Bridge Magazine more than a year ago explaining that the policies in place will lead to a continuing stress on the school system. People were quick to try and point out that it was the failings of specific school districts, and not the fault of the state. But when issues like teacher layoffs spread across the state knowing no economic bounds, it cannot simply be districts failing to keep up with the times. There is a fundamental misunderstanding in Lansing of what it means to educate, and it is not shared by school districts or the communities they represent.
Parents should worry that policy makers are not doing enough to secure the highest quality education. When an institution dispels talented professionals, it will have a hard time filling the gap.