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From: Karen
Date: Tue Apr 13 19:23:35 EDT 2010 Subject: Arizona budget fallout

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Karen: Updated thoughts (4/14/10)
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Karen: Updated thoughts (4/14/10)
I understand that 13 teachers at my school, about one-fourth of us, got "riffed" (reduction in force) yesterday. These teachers all have five years or less with our district. Those with three or four years' experience will be rehired later only if the sales tax increase passes. Several of them, the less tenured, will not be rehired, even in the best case scenario. It is worth pointing out that a few of the "less experienced" are only technically so; they took a long leave of absence to spend a few years raising kids, and then started back at the bottom of the tenure ladder. None of our six regular ed 6th grade teachers got the slips...but we lost 2 of 8 positions already last summer, and our class sizes in 6th grade are already in the mid-30s.

I'm really angry about this. I'm angry at a tax structure and a values system that has put us all here, in combination with all the things that put our state economy in the tank. And the only way the legislators will "fix" it, is by putting it up for popular vote, a sales tax increase that could backfire as well as succeed, in terms of bringing in revenue. I am deeply conflicted about how I will vote on that next month--because high sales taxes put a greater burden on the working poor, and therefore are against my beliefs--but if it doesn't pass, I'll take a hit, we'll all take a huge hit here, and I believe the kids in public school (most of Arizona's kids) will pay a heavy price.

There was no forward-thinking in the legislature then; there's a lack of courageous leadership now.

Please pray for me, for grace, for my attitude! (And for my husband, who is living with an overworked, often stressed-out person right now.)

Please pray for all of us in public service right now, being asked to even more with fewer resources. Pray for "loaves and fish" types of miracles for us, that what we have will be enough (or even more than enough).

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From: Karen
Date: Wed Apr 14 19:43:55 EDT 2010 Subject: Updated thoughts

The Amphi school board's scenario (presented at the meeting last night) includes many provisions we expected, for example, a 2 percent pay cut for everyone, and another cut in the form of 3 unpaid furlough days (our necessary "work days" without students, prepping the room at the beginning of the year, submitting grades, etc, won't be paid). I will actually take home significantly less because the health insurance cost will increase, and that increase will come out of my take-home pay. But I'm good at cutting coupons, and we've become creative at saving money in other ways (No Internet at the house?? GASP) Anyway, I already can imagine how we can cope with lowered salary.

If the sales tax passes, our class sizes will go up (on paper) an average of 2 students per class. How that plays out in an actual room will vary considerably. If the sales tax doesn't pass, class sizes will go up an average of 7 students per class. If you do the logical math of 28-35 kids per class already...that's almost 25% of the total teaching faculty laid off, right? The board has laid off hundreds of teachers in my district alone (over 200 full-time regular employees, about 300 total including parttime teachers and those with short-term contracts). The board is assuming with these lay-offs that the tax increase will not pass. They will rehire 1/2- 2/3 of them if the sales tax increase passes.

Obviously, a lot of what next year looks like depends on how people vote regarding the sales tax in May. It would help if everyone got the word out to the folks you know...in particular, those with kids in public schools. Not just in terms of the sales tax vote (which I'm still conflicted about myself), but in terms of letting their reps in Phoenix know how they feel about our tax structure and funding choices that have put us here. I don't think that the general public realizes how serious this funding situation is, maybe because we're kinda numbed out to long-term underfunding of education, which happened even in good economic times.

If your kids are in public schools, expect their class sizes (even in early elementary grades) to be in the upper 30s and even in the 40s next year. If you consider that the typical class in Tucson has anywhere from 2-15 kids who are learning English and 2-4 others with special education needs (individualized education plans)--each of which present extra work for the teachers--whoa!! Since we have class sizes in the mid-30s at my school already, it boggles the mind to think how we'll deal with more than 40 sixth graders per teacher, since the rooms weren't even built to accommodate that.

Our Wednesday afternoon staff meeting felt more like a funeral than a typical staff meeting. The PTO moms very kindly brought us berry salads with pound cake and whipped cream. And flower bouquets, which 3 people (names drawn out of a hat) got to take home with them. Our normally cool-as-a-cucumber principal choked back tears as he talked about his sister-in-law, a single mom, losing her teaching job with Amphi for next year. We looked around the room wondering how so many of our colleagues, a couple of whom literally just brought kids into the world, will cope next year. And wondering how we'll cope without them. The principal spoke of suffering that you can't control and how amazing things sometimes come out of it, and the last freedom left is always the freedom to choose your attitude about suffering you can't change. I thought of all that New Testament theology about suffering. I thought about the other types of suffering I've experienced myself. I thought that, without God's grace, suffering seems pretty pointless. But maybe my psychologist principal has a point: suffering could have a point.

After school, I met with three coworkers who follow Christ (one of whom has been laid off). We regularly pray for a little while after school. And we prayed together about this difficult situation.

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