Less Teachers, More Work

As New York City Chancellor imposed a freeze on hiring new teachers for public schools, many looking forward to join the system were disappointed. For those already in the system, the picture was not less grim.

When the Department of Education announced budget cuts of $405 million; school principals knew they will be facing a tough year.

On average, schools experienced budget cuts of five percent.

Public School 102, also known as Bay View School, in Elmhurst had a ten percent budget cut, said Theresa Dovi, the school’s principal.

“We had to cut some of our afterschool programs,” she added. “We had to cut positions of teachers that were servicing at risk children.”

Budget cuts did not only affect those teachers hoping to score jobs. One month after schools kicked off, teachers on duty are still trying to manage with less resources; such as reduced supplies and special education specialists. Remaining teachers said they now carry a heavier burden.

Securing the supplies – such as papers, text books and copy machine ink – is becoming a concern for many teachers.

“Normally whatever teachers wanted I was able to get for them,” Dovi said. “Now I have to go with what I have.”

A greater number of teachers are buying their own supplies. The $150 stipend the department grants is not enough, many said.

“Teachers generally put like $500 for supplies to their classrooms, it will be more money out of teachers’ pockets,” said a Brooklyn elementary school teacher and library specialist who did not want her name or school published.

The effect budget cuts had on classes is enormous, another Brooklyn elementary school teacher, 35, said.

“Each grade in my school lost one class,” said the fifth-grade teacher, who also requested anonymity.

Severe consequences followed, said the fifth-grade teacher.

“Each child has different learning needs that you have to address,” she said. “Having a large class makes it very difficult because some kids fall between the cracks.”

Most hurt are children who don’t have learning disabilities but may be struggling, the library specialist said. They do not get enough attention as academic intervention specialists were cut back, she added.

Consequently, teachers will have to put more effort, Dovi said.

“Now the burden is solely on them,” she added.

But several parents said they don’t think the burden is too large.

“[Teachers] work till 3 o’clock. They get out early,” said Laurie Windsor, president of the Community Education Council at District 20. “They still have time to do what they need to do.”

Yet teachers insist budget cuts have forced them to take on far more responsibility. Students coming from families affected by the economic downturn need closer attention because they experience a stress at home, the library specialist said.

“Now you’re dealing with other kinds of crisis at the same time,” she added. “It’s social work and all kinds of stuff and I think it’s tough.”

More teachers fear losing their jobs.

“Teachers are also in danger of being fired because the school needs to cut back,” said the fifth-grade teacher.

Many teachers said the current situation is intolerable.

“It puts a lot of stress in the classroom,” the library specialist said. “If this is only October, I don’t know how the outcome will be.”

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