By Amy Buffenbarger
Headlines in papers across the country bear the bad news about education budgets being slashed and teachers getting laid off. One of the largest papers, The New York Times, recently editorialized how fewer paychecks in a community affect more than just the laid-off teachers. Article after article shares stories of teachers who already know they won’t be returning in the upcoming school year, or are fearfully checking their mailbox each day for a pink slip.
Missing from many of these headlines and reports is how this economic crisis is affecting education support professionals (ESPs). The ESPs in our schools play as large a role as teachers in the lives of students. Yet preliminary numbers from the National Education Association show nearly 18,000 ESP jobs are at risk unless the Senate passes emergency education jobs funding legislation.
Kris McGlaun is a school librarian in Bloomington, Ind., where the Monroe County Community School Corporation plans to eliminate all but one librarian in the school system, with the school board arguing teacher jobs can be saved by eradicating the school library program.
“What they do not understand is that I and the 18 other school librarians are teachers; the school library is our classroom,” McGlaun said.
A recent survey from the American Association of School Administrators shows that 275,000 education jobs may be cut. That number includes teachers, support professionals and administrators.
The NEA is working hard to secure relief. If passed, Sen. Tom Harkin’s Keep our Educators Working Act would provide $23 billion to fund state and local education jobs, including the jobs of support professionals.
Many ESPs simply wonder how this can be happening, why education hasn’t been a bigger priority to lawmakers trying to balance budgets.
“If we can afford Wall Street bailouts and health insurance coverage for all, surely we can guarantee an appropriate, quality education for all our children,” said Mona Thorton, a school social worker from Glencoe, Ill.
ESPs who are not immediately facing threats of job loss are dealing with salary cuts and reduced working hours. Twenty-six year veteran Mary Ann Byrne, currently working as an elementary and middle school counselor in Stafford, Va., worries about how her colleagues will scrape by with even less income. “I have enjoyed every minute of the last 26 years, but right now I feel like gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe,” Byrne said.
Photo: Jocelyn Augustino