I am sure I’m not alone in being often disappointed by the politics of education. Despite the need for education to have a focus on what’s best for the students that are being educated, more often others’ interests seem to be the focal point. Today’s news from LAUSD is that UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles) has agreed to the district’s request to scale back schooling. If approved by the school board, which seems likely, five days will be taken off of this year’s calendar and an additional seven will be taken off of next year. This pleases the powers that be, because now they don’t have to pinch as much from district office costs. It also appeases UTLA, because it means fewer teachers have to be cut and classroom sizes won’t grow. Now, I’m not sure about my math, but I’m pretty sure five days isn’t going to affect class sizes all that much. I assume the logic is that if each teacher is paid for five fewer days, then there are theoretically more teachers that can be paid with the same amount of money.
Problems with this logic:
1. Knocking off five days out of 180 saves an estimated $140 million. Yay! We can hire $140 million worth of teachers that we couldn’t before. Wrong. Even with that cut, the district is still in the hole $500 million. Sure, the argument can be made that the district would have laid off an additional $140 million worth of teachers (around 3,000), but in reality the district would have taken a little from here, a little from there, just like they’ve been doing.
2. Five fewer days of school means five fewer days that students will have to learn what they need to in order to pass their classes. This pans out in two ways: A. some teachers water down their classes and it is easier to pass and B. some students who would have barely passed will now be barely failing, because just didn’t quite get enough to get them past that threshold. So, all of the students end up learning less, and some end up learning just enough less that they have to take extra classes to catch up. Is it enough to make up the 2% difference in money saved? Perhaps not, but it is enough that it won’t make much of a difference financially, but may make just enough of a difference to a student.
Of course, we make all of our decisions with the interest of the students.