EUGENE, Ore. -- Given three years now of "recession," it's no wonder that school cuts are in the news almost daily in the Eugene area.
"Little by little we're loosing so much of what's been built over the past 50 to 60 years here in Eugene and surrounding areas. Just look at a history of Eugene and its proud history of building and supporting schools since the end of World War II, and it's awesome what our communitie have created with some of the best schools in the country," says retired teacher Tom who points to "today's students" as "paying the price of this weak economy where school programs -- such as the arts -- are getting the axe left and right.
In turn, Tom says "I'm sure glad I'm not teaching today because it's so depressing."
School-closings due to recession, lack of interest by students and parents
One of the regular agenda items for today’s cash-pinched school districts is not if they should close such and such, but when; meanwhile, a recent survey shows more students are cutting school and their busy parents don’t seem to care.
“Every nine seconds in America a student becomes a dropout,” calculates the National Center for Education Statistics.
At the same time, school officials in nearby Coos Bay and other school districts around the country say that closing a public school upsets a community because students, parents and teachers are forced into a “displacement mode,” the reality of three years of recession in the U.S. means schools will either go to a four-day week or close,” says a local teacher who asked not to be identified because “teachers are getting cut as well.” In the meantime, school districts here in Oregon and throughout the U.S. have jumped on board for something dubbed “the study committee;” that teachers say is “nothing more than a group of people who meet once a month to simply delay more budget cuts or even a school closure.”
New York sets the tone for the rest of the country with school closures
According to a recent commentary in The New York Times about schools closing – not just on Halloween, during snow storms; “but for good” – the report noted how the Troy City School District has been in trouble since the recession began back in 2008.
Troy, New York, is home to the famed “Uncle Sam” character in what’s been dubbed as an “eclectic and historic urban community that was once known for being rich in job opportunities.” Sadly, Troy has become a shell of its former self and on its knees due to the prolonged recession that’s now to blame for more schools closing.
For instance, the timesunion.com website noted that in 2010: “The Troy City School District studied what path to take with its six elementary schools, including how many should remain open. The study committee will have to consider the financial impact of running the schools along with providing the best education for the elementary school students. Troy like many districts presently faces tremendous financial constraints. Declining enrollment, rising taxes and increased expenses during the deep recession has the district considering something that is usually is unthinkable: closing a school.”
In turn, “Troy came close to shutting School 2 this past spring during the development of its 2010-11 budget. Closing the North Central neighborhood school would have saved $2.4 million. The district took other steps that put off making a school-closing decision without consulting the community of parents, taxpayers, administrators, faculty and staff,” reported timesunion.com.
One plan had Troy ninth-graders going to another school instead of going right to Albany High School. “The program at the closed school aimed to cut the dropout rate of students in danger of leaving school, but the district determined that only a small percentage of the students who attended Harriet Gibbons graduated from high school,” added the timesunion.com report, while other high schools in New York State view school closings as the norm nationwide rather than the exception.
High school students quitting early due to need to earn money for their family
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more and more “high school students are dropping out because they need to help their family in this weak economy.”
For instance, more males (about 300,000) than females dropped out of grades 9-12 nationwide due to financial problems both in their community and at home where “another breadwinner was needed.”
“Nationally, American Indian and Alaska Native public school students were more likely to drop out of grades 9-12 than were students in other racial and ethnic groups,” stated the National Center for Education Statistics. “However, in the Northeast and the South, public school grade 9-12 dropout rates for Hispanic and Black students exceeded those of American Indian students.”
Overall, the National Center for Education Statistics notes that both students and parents have become more complacent about staying in school due to these difficult economic times.
Image source of the 1989 poster for “Dead Poets Society” about a boy’s prep school where students wanted to learn with the help of Robin Williams as their teacher. Photo courtesy Wikipedia