'I Will Be Watching Every Vote'

More than 300,000 educators around the country face layoffs. Unless the U.S. House and Senate act now, their jobs will disappear and millions of children’s lives will be affected. Here’s the story of just one laid off teacher, a single mother of two from Durham, N.C., named Gina Moretto Frutig.

Here’s a timeline from my most recent payday:

April 30: Got paid (we only get paid once a month).
May 1: Car needed new front shocks, new tires, oil change, new belt (don’t ask which one –I don’t know), and annual inspection.
May 3: Wrote checks for rent and day care.
May 5: Grocery shopped, filled up gas tank.
May 9: $27  left in my account. Receive kids’ approval letter for NC Health Choice – yup, Medicaid.
May 11:  $24 in my account. Overdraft protection kicks in $200, so I’ll be paying that back from next month’s check.
May 12: Informed by the principal that I will be one of the teachers receiving a pink slip on Friday.
Coming up on May 31: The next – and last – paycheck for 2010.

So, how is it that I’m so far in the hole so early in the month?

First, I need to explain that I am on the 10-month salary, so I’m actually getting more each check from August through May. Had I elected to take the 12-month option, I would be broke within the first three days.

Second, I do all my banking online, so the money comes out whether I have enough to cover it or not.

Third, let me just point out that I do not have many luxuries at home. I don’t have cable, and I only receive Internet so that my kids can have some time on educational websites, and so I can work at home. However, I will probably cancel that when my rate increases after the 12-month, introductory price ends. We don’t have cable because I don’t even have a working television. I paid off my car last summer and I paid off my last credit card with my tax returns.

The worst part is not having any extra money for my kids. My own two children can’t be in karate, dance, soccer. I’m even reluctant to sign my daughter up for Girl Scouts because I’m not sure I can cover all the costs.

And it doesn’t only affect the fun activities. I hesitate to go to the doctor when I’m sick, because the co-pay and the medication might put me over my budget. When the car needs to be repaired, I do the bare minimum – I finally caved in this time because I have been waiting since January to get that darn belt replaced, and they said something about it being connected to the steering column, so I thought now was a good time to take care of it.

And now I’m getting laid off. I really am confident that the federal and state budget writers, and our other elected officials, will not let us down. I think they’re finally getting the idea that educators are not going to take this sitting down, and we have become a force of social activists, the likes of which they have not seen for quite some time. I think they are realizing that the decisions they make today are truly going to impact the future. I think they are realizing that it is more cost effective to invest in a school than a prison.

But, most of all, I want them to realize that there are real people attached to these jobs. I want them to realize that this is no longer 1950, and the teachers whose jobs are being cut aren’t women working only to supplement their husbands’ income. Some of us are running a home, repaying our furlough hours – we pay child care, mortgages, medical bills, car repairs, home repairs, school loans and fill our gas tanks.

In light of that, I marched on Raleigh in this past weekend’s Fund Schools First rally (organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators.) I will call and email my representatives. I will be forwarding my state association’s daily political briefing email to every voter I know.

I will be watching every vote.

I will do this not because I have nothing better to do, but because I can’t afford to put the responsibility in someone else’s hands.


To read more stories from educators who recently received pink slips, visit our state-by-state story archive at NEA’s EducationVotes.