When the Budget Cuts Deep

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Numbers aside, good teachers are left without a job.

By now, it is common knowledge that the Prince George’s County school system will endure massive budget cuts for the 2011-2012 academic year. As an educator, I have personally dealt with a lack of upward mobility, a static pay rate and limited compensation for additional hours worked. Nothing has impacted me more than seeing my co-workers — who are genuinely good teachers — handed termination letters because of budget cuts.

For most educators, if the cutbacks don’t impact us directly, we quickly complain about the inconvenience, then somehow find a way to move on. But this year’s cuts have hit home. At Possibility Prep in Upper Marlboro, there were at least three staff members given termination letters.

Imagine being a single mother and having a full-time government job that allows you to support your family. Then you quit that job to pursue your dream of becoming a teacher, only to be fired after one year. I personally watched this first-year teacher grapple with effective ways to reach her youth. She would create engaging projects and go above and beyond her duties. Still, she was let go with no regard.

Imagine leaving your extended family in the Philippines and moving to Prince George’s County to teach. Once your services are no longer needed, you are fired without warning and deported to your country after living here for years. Having an immaculate classroom decorum or free after-school tutoring sessions for struggling youth didn’t matter to Prince George’s County. She had to go to save money.

A retired teacher was re-hired after beating cancer. He held off knee surgery until the end of the year to serve his students. He put in extra hours, attended overnight field trips and dedicated his resources to the school. Apparently, none of that mattered since he was fired recently.

There were no warnings, no meetings, only letters in the mail for these teachers to sever ties. What makes matters worse is that these stories are only from one school in Prince Georges County. Imagine the impact these budget cuts are having elsewhere. At a time when the economy is at a standstill, things seem to be getting much worse before they get any better.