In a recent article it was reported that the ACLU is suing California schools for charging fees. This violates the California Constitution that has guaranteed children a free education for over a century.
“In the suit, to be filed in a state court in Los Angeles on Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California names 35 school districts across California that list on their Web sites the fees their schools charge for courses including art, home economics and music, for Advanced Placement tests and for materials including gym uniforms,” as reported in the New York Times.
While the ACLU has unlimited resources to spend on these types of suits, schools do not. For the past several years, schools all across California have been expected to cut more and more from their budget by any means possible. This means many schools are left with few, if any, resource teachers, librarians, counselors, janitors, bus drivers, and other support services. It also means that teachers are left holding the bill if they want to effectively run their classes.
As the wife of a high school art and engineering teacher, we have felt the budget effects especially over the last three years as my husband has gone without a cost of living raise, yet prices continue to rise. This year he and his fellow teachers were mandated to take a week furlough without pay in order to keep other teachers from losing their jobs. Teachers at his California high school arrived to classes of 37 or more students this year in rooms without enough chairs.
My husband was given a budget of less than $8 per student for art supplies for the entire year (with the order still pending approval six weeks into the school year). He has only a handful of classroom textbooks from eight years ago for his art classes, and none for his engineering classes. Last year we personally spent over $2000 out of pocket for art supplies.
The new digital photo teacher who teaches Photoshop at his school is working without computers. The music teacher is working without instruments, and held a car wash on her own time to raise money. These are just a fraction of the stories that go unheard as parents blame teachers for failing schools and yet refuse to fund them at the polls. The amount that teachers pay out of pocket nationwide to personally support their students is staggering.
“According to the National School Supply & Equipment Association, a trade organization for the educational supply industry, teachers nationwide spent more than $1.3 billion out of their own pockets in the 2009-10 school year to buy all sorts of classroom supplies,” as reported in Education Week.
While the state of California requires school districts to have balanced budgets, “Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger canceled budget talks Monday because he was feeling ill, prolonging the stalemate over California’s $19 billion deficit,” according to State Budget Solutions, which delayed billions of dollars in payments to schools.
While the ACLU spends money suing schools, schools spend money to defend themselves, and Gov. Schwarzenegger stays home sick, I watched my husband (who was sick with the flu) go to the store this weekend to purchase another weeks worth of supplies for his high school art students as we work to make it through another school year.