Teachers' Perspective

By Leonora Cohen and Gregory Sampson-Gruener

As states suffer through budget crises due to the lingering effects of the recession, school districts continue to be faced with a host of difficult choices, not the least of which is the value we place on our teachers.

Eight years after a funding crisis forced half of Oregon’s school districts to take drastic measures, including cutting up to 17 days from the instructional calendar to balance budgets, they are being forced to do so again. Days are being cut, teachers and support staff are facing layoffs and furloughs, class sizes are increasing, and schools are being closed.

Public education advocates have a responsibility to show how inadequate funding affects people on the inside -- the teachers. School board members, policymakers, and communities should carefully consider the perspective of insiders -- a perspective that has not been described in research literature.

During the 2002-03 budget crisis, we talked with more than 400 principals, teachers, parents, and students to show how schools were affected. We sought perceptions from teachers about job satisfaction, working conditions, and the impact on students and staff. From this, we have developed recommendations for school board members and education leaders who face similar circumstances.

The lessons from Oregon are hard. No doubt, they extend to other states and school districts as well. But we can learn a lot from them.

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