February is hell for school administrators when times are bad. Under most teacher contracts, the district has to give notice in February or March or April if they do not intend to keep a given teacher for the following year, or if they are going to reassign a teacher to different duties or a different building.
This February, a lot of administrators are sending a lot of these notices.
I’ve been in meetings lately with administrators from a couple of local school districts, and each one tells the same story. Local property tax revenues are down, because assessed property valuations are down. State money has not just dried up but is being cut. School budgets are breaking this year, and next year looks worse. "We’re cutting teachers — mostly by attrition. We’re cutting ancillary programs and staff, like librarians, counselors, social workers, and tutors. We’re cutting administrative positions, support staff positions, field trips, and anything else we can think of, in order to keep as much money in the classroom as possible. We’re looking at consolidating schools, closing buildings, and increasing class sizes. We’re begging parents to volunteer to help in classrooms and businesses to donate whatever they can to keep our costs down. We’re not cutting fat — we’re cutting meat."
And it’s not just metropolitan Kansas City. It’s Los Angeles CA, Merrill WI, Plano TX, Ocala FL, Butte MT, and Akron OH. Dallas bit the bullet hard last October. It’s Lewiston ME, Iowa City IA, Atlanta GA, . . .
And on top of all this, the rise in home foreclosures means increased homelessness among families with children. When this happens, schools are required to help the kids stay in the same school with their same friends, regardless of where their homeless shelter may be. So transportation costs go up, the need for tutors and extra help goes up, . . . In metro DC it looks like this, and the local school administrators around Kansas City told me they are seeing the same thing here.
If you haven’t heard news like this from your local school district, get ready. Tis the season, for everyone.