The New York Times reported this week," The progress on deficit reduction over the past two years will also probably hamper job creation and the economic recovery. Private and government forecasters project that sequestration alone will cost about 700,000 jobs this year and will shave at least a half percentage point from economic growth. The Congressional Budget Office now forecasts a falling deficit but stubbornly high unemployment in coming years." These figures affect all job seekers. No family will be unscathed.
The grim job outlook is seen nowhere more than in the field of education. Lets take a look at a typical real-life Austin family. One child will graduate from college this year and has no definitive prospects for a professional career and will most likely be forced to continue her job in the food service industry while living at home. Another child with advanced degrees commutes to different colleges and universities in the area as adjunct faculty with zero health or retirement benefits because the tenured academic positions of days gone by are non-existent and he is "stuck". What other choice does one have with a mortgage, students loans, and a family to support? The wife has been under-employed for years, and most recently, the husband joined the ranks of the unemployed as his salaried position in a private school was eliminated and replaced with a low paying hourly wage position. Like so many in this local family, he is a teacher, and jobs are practically non-existent unless special ed, bi-lingual or math/science certified.
No educator is safe, and an increasing number of schools are ruthless in the ways they discard teachers with absolutely no regard for the personal and professional damage that is an inevitable consequence. It has not been that long ago since over 1,000 Austin public school teachers were laid off in an over zealous reduction in force following the budget cuts of our last legislative session. Some were re-hired in the past few years, but many excellent teachers were forced to leave the profession or move away to find jobs in order to support their families.
In the old days, the idea of being a "school family" was not a myth. They looked after their staff and if a teacher needed help, they were mentored and assisted so they could have the opportunity and time to address their weaknesses. Most schools actually treated their employees with respect and worked with them instead of throwing them overboard into the shark infested waters.
Private schools who do not offer contracts but only hire "at will" can be the death of a teacher's career because some have been known to terminate staff for arbitrary reasons. Perhaps these schools are oblivious to the realities of looking for a job in today's economy, or perhaps they genuinely have no compassion for their employees and their families. "Out of sight, out of mind." So teachers, beware. Since many private schools are considered non-profit, you cannot receive unemployment benefits if you are "let go." Farewell professional career, hello pizza delivery driver.
It seems that those who have careers and are financially secure never think about those who have lost everything. In today's job market, few people are immune to lay-offs, reductions in force, downsizing, and other austerity measures. You could be next. How many paychecks are you away from losing your home, your car, your ability to support your family? We cannot assume that those who are working in unskilled labor positions are doing it because they were not prudent and did not invest a small fortune for college degrees to prepare them for a professional career. There are more than a few people out there with terminal degrees who cannot find jobs. They work wherever they can to survive.
And upcoming college graduates fare no better .They have nothing to look forward to when they complete their studies because there are few opportunities. They did everything right. Made all the right choices and sacrifices to finish school only to graduate with insurmountable, crushing student debt and no job offers. Texas State senior Abby observed," If the employment picture doesn't improve soon, I may still be living with my parents when I am 30. Payments on student loans begin this summer, and I have nothing. I have applied just about everywhere and am not even getting a call back or response. I am beginning to think the job postings are fake and just out there to make us feel like there is hope."
Out of all the inequities and terrible things happening to educators and college graduates, it is our children who are the biggest victims. What do they learn from seeing teachers disrespected and vilified? What do they learn from seeing college graduates who can't afford a place of their own and must work in minimum wage jobs while defaulting on their student loans? What message does that send to our children who sit in classrooms and wonder why they should try at all? Why study hard and hold on to dreams of success? Reality is a deal breaker. Instead of studying hard and developing a strong work ethic, many young people today are just trying to figure out how to triumph over a system that is broken.
The state of affairs in education is only deteriorating. It is time to stop and make change happen. Restore integrity in education. Respect and support teachers. Create jobs for recent graduates. Reward those who have a strong work ethic and want to make a positive difference. Until we demand these things, our children, teachers, and schools will all be the casualties in the war that nobody will win.