For instance, here [in President Obama's jobs plan] we have a proposal that will help stem the tide of teacher layoffs. Yet when you visit the StudentsFirst website, the first thing you’re asked to do is sign a petition to change how and which teachers are laid off. That’s an important conversation to have, but given that the large majority of teachers are capable and effective (a view shared by over 70% of Americans, despite endless criticism leveled at teachers in the media), shouldn’t keeping teachers in the classroom take precedence over pushing a nice-sounding but problematic layoff policy? Why don’t Michelle Rhee and company throw their weight behind efforts to keep teachers in their classrooms, and use their money to support promising professional development programs that would help teachers improve their professional practice right now?
It's not just StudentsFirst—other groups claiming concern about education are more concerned with raising private money to divide the existing public pie more to their liking than with making the pie
Meanwhile, in Rick Perry's Texas, one school district has avoided laying off teachers by laying off custodians and having teachers clean their own classrooms. If your instinct was to think this doesn't affect the educational experience for students, think again. Even setting aside the strain on teachers doing more than their full-time jobs,
High school and middle school classrooms must be cleaned within 15 minutes of dismissal. That can cut into time teachers set aside to meet with students. According to a cleaning manual the district distributed to teachers, if the rooms are not swept “room numbers will be logged and reported to respective principals.”
“If a student comes in the middle of your sweeping, you either have to say. ‘No, I can’t help you,’” she said, or stop and risk that it will not get done in time.
Groups of students have been helping out by cleaning classrooms as community service. But it's a national scandal that these are the choices school districts are having to make—between professionally cleaned schools and enough teachers, between clean classrooms and one-on-one attention for students—while groups raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fight to lay off teachers in their preferred ways, rather than throwing their weight behind proposals to fund schools more fully.