2011-01-26 / Opinions

Chesterfield teacher asks for more school funding

I write in response to Ms. Schulz’s [Dec. 29] letter regarding the burden placed upon county taxpayers by education spending. With respect to Ms. Schulz’s thoughtful letter, this really isn’t about national or local politics. It’s about our children – and we’re stealing from them.

As a proud teacher of 10 years, I find that most teachers actually are sympathetic to resistance regarding our requests to help us cope with the catastrophic budget shortfalls. We know that county government has simply not communicated to the community how this crisis is affecting our children. If I were not in the classroom, I might find myself resistant, too.

Honestly, almost all the teachers I know are so upset about this crisis because we see it hurting the children that we are dedicated to helping. Before the crisis, Chesterfield already spent significantly less per student than the state average. Now, teacher layoffs are making class sizes huge; classes well beyond 30 are very common, even among struggling and at-risk children. Consecutive years of pay cuts have meant that many teachers have had to take second jobs or help at home because spouses have had to work more. All of this means that each child receives substantially less attention as there is simply less time. Good teachers have always come early, stayed late and brought work home to grade well into the evenings and weekends. (We signed up for this; we know what it takes.) While as a parent I want to believe that a teacher would always “make time” for my child if they needed extra help, as a teacher I know that one can’t “make time.” One has to make difficult choices. This year these choices for many teachers I know – sadly – have included not assigning projects assigned in years past, offering less after-school help and spending less time per student evaluating their work.

The property tax adjustment proposed a few months ago (readjusted from an ill-advised cut during the time of inflated home values) would have amounted to only a small increase. Money can be recovered; educational opportunities can’t. If a child doesn’t master the fundamentals of spelling in elementary school, it’s hard for them to get them later – they probably won’t. If a child doesn’t master basic grammar in middle school, it’s hard for them to get it later – they probably won’t. As a high school teacher, I see many students who have lost so much that they can’t make back for themselves the college and career opportunities they could have had. We are stealing from our children’s futures.

Again, money can be recovered; educational opportunities can’t. To those who have been resistant in the past, if you were able to see the impact the budget crisis is having, I know that you would agree that it’s wrong to make the children make this irrecoverable sacrifice when we adults all can make a small one on their behalf. Please look past local politics and stand with us to support education in Chesterfield.

James Wilson

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