Dude, Let Students Help Make Those Teacher Cuts

nea and jedidiahRemember the nineties? Remember Project Star? This program, and others like it, were put in place to cut class sizes and hire more educators to better educate California students. Now, it seems that the more education-oriented people of the nineties who put Project Star and others like it in place are long gone. Maybe they never existed.

Last year, our school – Torrance High – let go 21 teachers out of a total staff of about 130 teachers and administrative staff. At the end of this year, we’re told our school will drop from 111 teachers and administrators to 66 for next school year. Several of our favorite teachers – in math, science, and English – have told us privately that they will be among the cuts.

Because our school makes these cuts strictly on seniority, it’s always the newer teachers who go, the ones who connect so much better with us students. Although we like and respect our older, more experienced teachers, these younger ones are more flexible in their teaching plans and are closer to us in age. They understand us so much better. So we’re terribly sad to see their teaching careers end, at least for now.

Isn’t it just great that today’s students will be left with a massive debt and without the proper mathematical skills to solve tomorrow’s problems? You of the older generation, don’t you think you’re being a little selfish? You on the Left will say it’s the Right’s fault and the Right will say it’s the Left’s fault. But you would both be wrong—and pointing fingers won’t fix anything anyway. With the massive war expenses headed by the Right and the ever-expanding social programs of the Left, you are giving us difficult challenges and inadequate tools to fix them.

As you throw all of this money at unnecessary things, you also take our voices away. You are setting us up to fail. First, you’re giving us impossible problems to solve—the war, the debt, and so forth. Then you tie our hands by taking away the tools that would enable us to solve those problems, namely our best and most favorite teachers. And finally you give us no say in the cuts. Dude! Really?

We’re not saying that students should have the right to fire teachers, but when there are mandatory layoffs, students should help in the decision-making. As high school students, we have direct insight into this situation.

Last year, our high school lost so many teachers that one of us did not even have an English teacher for over a month. Next school year, to accommodate these drastic staff cuts, the school plans to take class sizes from an average of 30 all the way to 43. Many of our classrooms are cut in half by dividers with a class taught on each side of the divider. Now, with so many fewer teachers, they will have to take down those dividers to accommodate the larger number of students in each class.

We would much rather that teacher layoffs not be made solely on seniority. We would much rather have teachers who have earned the student body’s respect and who make campus life and our educations better. Better yet, we would like you to find a way to keep these teachers, both for us and for the kids who will follow us.

Give us a voice.

Nea Friberg-Price and Jedidiah Von Dielingen

Nea and Jed are finishing their junior year at Torrance High.

Published by the LA Progressive on June 23, 2010
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