Teachers on hunger strikes? That's what a group of Los Angeles teachers and activists did Wednesday to protest thousands of teachers being laid off in L.A.
It's not that bad here. But the layoff notices 304 Charlotte-Mecklenburg School teachers got recently is bad enough. Some star teachers got swept up in the net.
That shouldn't have happened. Yet, the rationale of school officials is understandable. Laying off retirees who are already collecting a pension is better than laying off teachers who are depending on only one paycheck. If the choice is really between good teachers, that's fair. Veteran teachers who come out of retirement to work again still get their pension when laid off. Other teachers collect unemployment benefits until they find work.
Still, these layoffs are painful. Parents and faculty are right to protest when stellar teachers get pink slips. Our schools need all the good teachers they can get.
Few of us will lament 178 low performers getting laid off. They should be shown the door even when the economy is humming.
But the economy isn't humming. More bad choices may loom, with Mecklenburg County officials recommending a $34 million cut in funding for the upcoming school year, and state officials pondering slashing funding by up to $70 million.
Some of the system's problems will be abated by federal stimulus money. It's time CMS and the state start spelling out how the money will be used, and to start including it in budgets.
CMS has already received $23 million in stimulus money, which officials say is allotted for high-poverty schools, special education and preschool. Because the money is targeted and won't be recurring, care must be taken in how it's used. But we must begin marshalling all resources to tackle the needs of today.
Other school systems are doing so. In Seminole County (Fla.), school district leaders reversed an earlier plan to eliminate 139 teaching positions, saying the $22 million in federal funds the district is set to receive means they won't have to.
It's also time for Gov. Bev Perdue, and state lawmakers, to come up with a reasonable and fair plan for the education stabilization funds the state is getting from the federal government. Other governors are doing so.
State officials should be careful in using those dollars to help patch the budget deficit. Last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that spending the dollars “unwisely” would “disqualify” states for more money. North Carolina is one of 16 states the Government Accountability Office will track to gauge how stimulus money is spent.
Times are tough. Everyone must share the pain. But we should redouble our efforts to ensure students are hurt the least.