Teaching jobs? What jobs?
On Sunday two articles in separate publications painted contradictory portraits of the state of American teaching jobs. One offered bleak predictions in the form of layoffs, the other hopeful.
An article in the Sunday New York Times looked to future college graduates and their majors and the graduate programs prospective students applied to as indicators of where the direction the job market would turn now that careers in finance no longer looked appealing. Students were looking to several public service oriented fields: science, public policy, community organizing and teaching. The article mentioned that one Harvard senior, who had initially planned to work as an investment banker, was now looking to Teach for America as his post-graduation plan.
Another article in Education Week on the state of Detroit’s schools described a much bleaker scene. The article discussed how the city planned to close 23 schools and layoff 600 teachers as a way to consolidate facilities in a school district that is rapidly losing students. The district is facing a $303 million deficit.
Although Detroit may not be exemplary of most U.S. cities, it does signal an alarming disconnect between what is believed to be a safe career in times of a recession and the realities for many teachers.
In California, more than 26,590 teachers received pink slips in 2009. In New York City, the prospect of teacher layoffs is 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. Additionally, Teach for America will reduce its number of New York City teaching positions from 500 to 350 next year.
And in Monday’s Washington Post, the newspaper said that money from President Obama’s stimulus package going toward local school districts, $100 billion is proposed for education, 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. And then the even bigger worry is that all that money slated for reforming education could be spent plugging leaks in school districts in need of serious overhauls.
So, the question still remains: is teaching something that is still a “safe” profession during economic disasters, or is this the one of many indications that this financial meltdown is different than anything that’s come before.
- Jamie Oppenheim