I have a love-hate
relationship with the last week of school. I love the final field trips, the
laid-back atmosphere of the classroom, afternoon walks with my students,
retirement luncheons and my students building log cabins out of random
leftovers in our kitchen cabinet (see photos below). I hate filling out the packet of
end-of-year forms (room inventories, room repairs, etc.), taking everything off
the walls, stacking desks and moving tables and completing all the final
paperwork to be sent home with students.
As much as these things annoy me, I was introduced to another “last week
of school” activity that I dislike even more: unexpected, county-wide, special
education staff meetings.
I received a phone call
from my special education supervisor mid-week that there would be a big meeting
on Thursday that me and my assistants were required to attend. She informed me
that our superintendent would also be there. Of course, red flags immediately
popped up in my mind. It wasn’t long until rumors began to spread about the
cause of the meeting being a very significant budget cut to special education
I walked into the
meeting afraid for several reasons. First, I knew that no matter what happened,
students with disabilities in my county would suffer due to loss of funds.
Secondly, I knew that it was almost inevitable someone was losing their job. Thirdly,
I feared that with only two and half years as a teacher, I’d be one of the
first to go.
We were informed during
the meeting that due to the budget sequesters currently taking place (which,
after some research, I only vaguely understand), our county lost nearly
$300,000 of federal special education funding for the upcoming school year. This
is a huge number for a small county like mine that has only seven schools.
Sadly, two of my fears
were actualized as a result of these cuts. Nine educational assistants lost
their jobs, two of which were mine. I had already anticipated only having one
assistant next year, but I have worked closely with this particular assistant
for two years now and could not ask for a better person in my classroom. She is an irreplaceable asset to my students
and a dear friend.
I was very thankful to
be assured I did have a job for the upcoming year and will be in the same position,
but was not promised an assistant at all. With 16 students with moderate to
severe disabilities all on my own, I’m concerned about how much actual teaching
I’ll be able to do. And this is just the situation in my class; the budget cuts
hit every school in our small county hard. There’s no possible way this much
staff can be cut and services for students remain the same. It’s impossible to
give kids what they need without people.
So as my summer begins,
I’m praying ardently that things turn around over the next couple of months. I’m
praying that funds will become available in excess of what was lost and those
that lost their jobs plus more will be hired.
This is my first
experience with budget cuts, and probably will not be my last. As special
educators, how have you and our students been affected by similar situations?