The economic recession has affected almost every aspect of American life, including education. Funding for public education has been cut as many U.S. states face budget problems.
Teachers across California have been afraid to check their mailboxes.
Veronica Pellegrin recently received a dreaded letter. "Getting the letter and seeing you will no longer be employed, your services will no longer be required - it is very disheartening, to say the least, and frustrating," she said.
Pellegrin is not alone. Sixty percent of the teachers at Mariposa-Nabi primary school in Los Angeles have received layoff notices.
"We have to keep going and making it the best year possible with all the changes," Principal Salvador Rodriguez stated.
Even with a tighter budget, Rodriguez has been able to provide computers for his students, but they are feeling the economic squeeze. He says there used to be 20 students to a teacher at his school. By next year, he expects nearly 30 students per classroom. "If you cut personnel, they cannot give that individual attention," he said.
Teachers say that is especially true in schools where there are large immigrant populations and English is not the first language of many students.
Superintendent John Deasy heads the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school system in the United States. He says that during the past two years, his school district has had to lay off 10 to 12 percent of its staff, about half of them teachers. "The recession has had an enormous impact in the state budget,” he said. “And we have had a huge drop in funding."
University of California (at Los Angeles) Education Professor John Rogers says the recession has affected education funding across the United States. "Some projections estimate that across the country, 160,000 teachers have received lay-off notices this spring," Rogers explained.
Rogers says the situation in California is worse because the state was already facing a budget deficit before the recession, and that the state was spending less per student than the national average. Primary and secondary schools in California receive most of their funding from the state government. That is about 40 percent of the state’s general fund.
United Teachers Los Angeles union President A.J. Duffy says the amount of funding schools receives each year depends on the economy. "In the past 2.5 to three years, we have lost $20 billion in funding for public education," he said.
Superintendent John Deasy expects more changes, if the state's budget problem does not improve. "We are cutting all of our librarians, our nurses. We would be forced to close and consolidate schools," Deasy stated.
Most school districts in California already have reduced the number of days students must attend school. Other states around the country are also talking about reducing the school year as they face shrinking education budgets.