CHICAGO – It’s that time of the year, again. Summer comes to an end and kids go back to school. When school starts Tuesday, Sept. 7 in Chicago, there will be one person missing from the classroom–me.
I moved to Chicago almost three years ago after a divorce seeking a new life for myself. I am an educator, a Spanish teacher, mostly teaching middle school. I am also certified to teach high school, including K-12 in Florida, the last system I taught in. I’ve worked other great jobs, but I always go back to teaching.
Upon arrival in 2007, I was pretty optimistic about my job prospects. My last school assignment was a middle school in South Florida with Broward County Schools.
My resume and job application to Chicago Public Schools, (CPS), were submitted immediately. CPS seemed like a comfortable fit, Broward County is the fourth largest school district in the U.S., Chicago is the third largest and I taught in New York, the largest system in America, with over 1.1 million students.
Little did I know that my timing couldn’t have been worse. The field of education in general was bad all over the country. Bad unfortunately, included Chicago, with an unemployment rate that crept up to a whopping 10 percent.
Time marched on, but I never got any bites. Ditto for the umpteen job fairs I attended. The number of teachers looking for work was staggering.
In June of this year, the School Board fired over 200 of CPS’ top teachers. This is in response to Chicago Public School’s ever increasing cash crunch. The outlook wasn’t any better in July–an announcement was made that 600 more educators would be fired with more possible firings imminent.
The city has 417,855 students enrolled and 675 schools to run. CEO Ron Huberman has estimated the system’s deficit at $1 billion, (this is not a misprint!), another modified report indicates $975 million for 2011. That’s a seriously hefty amount.
OK. Here’s the good news. CPS is scheduled to receive $105 million of Obama’s money with the passing of the new federal educator jobs bill this past Tuesday, Aug. 17. The $26 billion bill is suppose to protect 130, 000 teachers, police, and healthcare worker jobs in the U.S..
Now, here’s the bad news. At least for me (and others like me looking for a J-O-B): the federal aid will be used to re-hire laid off teachers, saving their jobs. This is a good thing. But, as they used to say, ‘Where’s the beef?” As in, more money? What about job creation for an overtaxed school system? Hiring more teachers? The oversized classes presently hold 31 students per classroom.
And, more bad news. At least from my perspective. Although the bill is estimated to save 5000 education jobs in Illinois, (see video here), Board President Mary Richardson-Lowry advises everyone to wait until the money has been received, also pointing out there is no guarantee how many jobs will be saved. So much for Obama’s money. Too little too late.
Wait, here’s the clincher–this is a one-time windfall. (Gee, aren’t we lucky?) But, I guess beggars can’t be choosy.
Let me add injury to insult, if I may. Mayor Daley wants teachers to forfeit their four percent pay raise or agree to other concessions. This is in light of Daley’s announcement he is taking a $20,000 pay cut; his staffers a ten percent cut.
For all intents and purposes, teachers regularly have to forfeit “penny-anny” raises and make concessions. It’s time for everyone to know that educators have “concessioned” and sacrificed to the max. Guess what? We’re “concessioned out.”
For as long as I can remember, teachers have always been the sacrificial lambs of City Hall, the School Board, and their budgets. We seem to get the crumbs from the table, the leftovers, when each and everyday we shape, mold, and nurture the minds of children, preparing them for the world at large and the future.
The average teacher’s salary in the U.S. recently rose to a four and a half percent hike of $51,000. Look how long it took just to crack $50,000. We need to drastically improve our systems, hire more teachers, slim down class sizes, and pay our teachers what they are worth.
As for me, I am seriously considering a career change. I don’t see things changing for me here in education. I have already completed the applications to go back to school for another Bachelors Degree. Hey, maybe I’ll get some of that Obama money.
Teachers get the short end of the stick, again. Even with the windfall, I say it’s a shortfall. It falls very short in alleviating Chicago schools of their woes and most importantly, short changes the children.
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