By JAMIE OPPENHEIM
Last Sunday, two articles in separate publications painted contradictory portraits of the state of American teaching jobs. While one offered bleak predictions in the form of layoffs, the other was hopeful.
An article in Sunday’s New York Times examined the majors of college students and the graduate programs prospective students gravitated toward, as indicators of where the job market would turn now that careers in finance held less appeal. Students were looking to several public service-oriented fields: science, public policy, community organizing and teaching.
Education Week, which tackled the state of Detroit’s public schools, described a much bleaker landscape. The article discussed how the city planned to shutter 23 schools and layoff 600 teachers as a way to consolidate facilities in a school district, with a $303 million deficit, that is rapidly losing students. Although Detroit may not be indicative of most American cities, it does signal an alarming disconnect between what is believed to be a safe career in times of a recession and the realities many teachers actually encounter.
In California, more than 26,590 teachers received pink slips in 2009. In New York City, the prospect of teacher layoffs is still up in the air. Mayor Bloomberg said in late March that he would do his best to preserve teaching positions despite possibly having to make serious cuts to the city’s budget once the state budget gets approved. In New York, Teach for America will reduce its number of teaching positions from 500 to 350 next year but has yet to announce further reductions in other cities.
And Monday’s Washington Post reported that the $100 billion from President Obama’s stimulus package going to local school districts may not be enough to prevent layoffs because of local budget shortfalls. In addition to job loss, another major worry that comes out of this predicament is that Obama may not have enough funds for the educational reforms he’s promised. An even bigger worry is that all that money slated for reforming education could be spent merely plugging leaks in school districts in need of systemic overhauls.
So, the question still remains: Is teaching something that remains a “safe” profession during times of economic crisis, or is this merely the latest indication that our financial meltdown is entirely different than anything that’s come before?
— Jamie Oppenheim