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Don’t Stop Believing

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By day, some of you know, I teach at an alternative high school for at-risk urban teens.

They call me the Skinny White Girl.

I call them whatever gets their attention. :)

I make little pacts with some of them along the way, trying to help them reverse the deficits many come in with. Poor reading levels. Criminal records. Gang affiliation. Multiple babies. Drug habits. Drug selling.

Between all that and keeping them from skipping to hit the neighborhood donut shop (It’s Hinkleys. Can you blame them?), I don’t have much time or energy left over for politics.

But every once in a while politics seems to stroll right into the classroom and walk off with your dry erase markers. ;)

That’s how I’m feeling this week.

Here’s why: Michigan’s lawmakers cut back funding to the tune of $300 per child.This is stacked on top of another recent cut back, which already reduced funds by $170 per child.

You can probably sense the big math problem that creates. Because we’re not just talking about $470. When you do the multiplication, a school of, say, 1,500 students, is losing $750,000.


For our district, that means cutting 50 teachers. (Kudos to our district for trying to keep those cuts away from the in-classroom spots that affect kids most.) But for some it’s even worse. Schools in Detroit and Monroe, for example, have had to lay off ALL their teachers with the hope to later call back as many as they can after numbers get crunched.

Welcome to our world.

Money, as you know, gets a lot of people fired up. So every once in a while I appreciate the comic relief that pops up in the form of satire.

For example, one person suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that maybe all the schools should just fold their bussing programs. That schools could issue community apologies to parents, explaining that with $750,000 taken out of our programs, that there isn’t enough money to fund the normal services to families.

The idea being that if all the schools left their busses on the lots, and come Monday parents had to figure out a new morning routine to drop off kids, that a lot of parents would quickly care about funding issues that otherwise get lost in the local newspaper headlines.

Its probably safe to say (smirk) that if come Monday morning, kids across the state were all standing by the curb and no busses came, phones at the state legislature would ring off the hook.

Maybe someone somewhere could find some funding then.

I’m not foolish enough to think our educational system is perfect (but please know the systems for measuring it aren’t either) or that a quirky, off-the-cuff solution like cutting busses is the right long term one. But it makes me smile to imagine the state switchboard lighting up with people who are suddenly motivated to lobby for students.

So the busses will probably keep rolling out, but when you see those busses on the street, please remember to say a prayer for those of us who are trying to teach more kids with less help every year.

Don’t stop believing.



  • comment-avatar
    Warren Baldwin April 27, 2011 (10:37 am)

    It disturbs me that when the money gets tight, one of the first places the politicians turn to start cutting funds is education. They never start at the source of the problem – our debt-based economic system (since Woodrow Wilson we have run our country on the basis of intentional borrowing, as opposed to the old Jeffersonian principal of paying cash and not borrowing).

    Eventually, as we have been warned, the debt-based system will catch up to a nation, just as it does to a family. With a nation it just takes longer b/c there are more people, more money, and the government can keep printing more debt-based dollars to postpone the inevitable (something families can’t do :)

    Your article is a good example of how politics gets things upside down. I hope things work out.

    Good post.


    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Cunningham April 27, 2011 (11:49 am)

      Warren, thanks for your great comments. While I lack the background to take a stab at fiscal solutions on that scale, I hear the winning combination of wisdom and common sense in your ideas.:)

  • comment-avatar
    Amy April 27, 2011 (1:09 pm)

    Sarah, excellent post, which is why I Tweeted it via all three of my Twitter accounts. :) My mom was an inner city school teacher for over 30 years, and she has them at the other end of the spectrum–kindergarten. Not only did she spend a lot of her OWN money on school supplies as the district make cutbacks, but she did other things that teachers don’t get credited or paid for, which just comes from the love and passion of doing the job and doing it well. I have a sneaking suspicion you’re one of those types, too.

    Cutbacks to educational are usually kissing cousins to cutbacks in social programs, too. My best friend and roommate is a social works for children and youth specializing in adoptions. I see how these cuts make her job harder, push more kids into “the system” (and doesn’t everyone like to blame “the system”?), and fail to offer the services that families need to teach basic parenting skills (not to mention therapy/wrap-around services which are also essential to a child’s education).

    Yet public employees and teachers bear the brunt of these cutbacks while the legislators go to their merry political dinners, have health care for life (at least in my state), and continue to not “get it.”

    Thank you, Sarah, by posting this you are helping them to “get it.” I think you should direct this to the attention of your state representatives.

    I won’t stop believing!

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 27, 2011 (1:49 pm)

    Amy, I am glad to hear from someone who can really relate. Some people want to put things back on teachers, drawing attention some students’ poor performance on college-readiness exams, but those tests don’t show how much my colleagues and I pour into kids who are far behind before we ever see them. :)

  • comment-avatar
    Amber Keathley April 27, 2011 (2:40 pm)

    Well said Sarah! I posted on FB. Makes me smile too, but I sort of wish it could happen. But, why won’t it? So.Much.Red.Tape.

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Cunningham April 27, 2011 (3:58 pm)

      Thanks @amber.:) I know you can relate.

  • comment-avatar
    Jenny April 27, 2011 (3:39 pm)

    Well said Sarah! We drive our kids to school and them seem to be well adjusted kids!!! You’re right about the red tape, Amber!!

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Cunningham April 27, 2011 (4:31 pm)

      Thanks @Jenny. It’s a tricky thing trying to reform a huge public system..,