March 28, 2012
The Effects of Budget Cuts on Students and Teachers
Drastic cuts in Florida’s educational system are in resulting increasing class sizes, the elimination of music, art, and other elective classes, the significant reduction in extracurricular activities, and a diminished ability to provide incentives for teachers to continue teaching. The effect of these changes will be a long term negative impact on teacher’s ability to teach and decrease our students’ ability to learn.
Budget cuts are forcing qualified teachers out of the classroom where they are most effective and causing them to pursue other careers or academic endeavors. As stated in State Impact, because of the shortage of funds of over $170 million, Broward County alone has laid off more than 2,400 employees and most of them have been teachers (O'Connor, 2011). Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union, said the union is expecting about 20,000 teacher layoffs (Castro, 2011). As a result of these layoffs, and current graduating teaching students, school districts are left with a surplus of teachers. Many have the opportunity to come back to work before the next school year begins but may not be at the same school or even teaching the same grade level. Because this is based on seniority, those teachers who have been laid off and unfortunately are not one of the chosen to go back to work, have been forced to go back to school to either continue to pursue their education career or pursue a completely different major.
Recent layoffs have resulted in, expanded classroom sizes with potentially disastrous effect on student performance. There once was a time classrooms had a maximum of 20 students. In some states, classroom sizes have expanded to as much as 36 students in one class. According to Science Daily, reports show that students in small classes in grades four through six consistently have better results than students in large classes. Those in small classes that had better cognitive and non-cognitive skills, had better scores on standardized national tests in grades six and nine, and perceived themselves as developing more self-confidence and greater patience (Expertanswer, 2012). Budget cuts that result in inreased class sizes need to be made with these considerations in mind.
Many people are not aware of the effect of music on students’ ability to learn and retain information, yet as documented previously, music classes are one of the first programs to be cut in this environment. According to Science Daily, there is now definitive proof of different brain development and improved memory of students who take music lessons when compared to those who do not (Press, 2006). “Not only do the brains of musically-trained children respond to music in a different way to those of the untrained children, but also that the training improves their memory as well. After one year the musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visuospatial processing, mathematics and IQ” (Press, 2006). If it costs $2.5 million to have an art program, music program, and physical education program, one can see why school are making these cuts, however; in the light of this research provided, we can see that these cuts will be coming at the expense of our students cognitive abilities.
As the budgets get smaller, and the expenses are getting bigger, specials and elective classes are being cut. Music and art have been eliminated in some schools. In others, it is just part time. Students are not getting the basic musical and artistic education, which were once available years ago. Teachers who used to teach elective classes are forced to teach core subjects if they still want a job. Physical education classes have also been cut in some schools or have...