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Tess Vigeland: Did you send an apple to school with your child today? It is National Teacher Day. But for thousands of teachers around the country, it’s not an especially happy one.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan predicts up to 300,000 teachers and other public school staff could lose their jobs as states make drastic budget cuts. From the Marketplace Education Desk, Amy Scott reports.
AMY SCOTT: This morning at the Pleasantdale School in West Orange, N.J., a group of preschoolers lined up on the gymnasium floor.
GYM TEACHER: All right, let’s put our hands behind us. Lift up like a table.
At the end of the school year, their teacher Alyssa Calabrese will be out of work.
ALYSSA CALABRESE: I applied to like 20 jobs already. Haven’t heard anything back. So it just shows what crisis we’re in.
The West Orange School District lost $6 million in state aid this year. Voters rejected a school budget that would have raised property taxes to make up some of the shortfall.
Nick Galante with the local teacher’s union says now the district will have to cut even more staff.
NICK GALANTE: We represent about a 1,000 people. I think we’re going to lose probably close to 150 staff members.
For students, the cuts mean bigger classes. Programs like band could disappear.
Isabel Novoa has a fifth grader at Pleasantdale.
ISABEL NOVOA: She plays the clarinet. And the thought of her losing her instrumental music for next year is very scary. It’s very upsetting.
Novoa is losing something too. Her job as a classroom assistant.
Today the American Federation of Teachers launched a campaign to drum up support for federal aid to save jobs. Critics say the projected layoffs may be exaggerated and that districts need to make cuts.
Liam Julian is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. He says teacher hiring has far outpaced growth in enrollment.
LIAM JULIAN: So you’re talking about class sizes getting a lot smaller, with no real appreciable gains in the educational outcomes of students.
Julian says districts should focus on hiring better teachers and ending policies that push young, non-tenured teachers out the door first, like Pleasantdale’s Alyssa Calabrese. After almost three years at the school, she was due for tenure in September.
In West Orange, N.J., I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.
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