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Teacher layoffs will cripple local education

I was one of more than 200 Burbank Unified School District teachers

who received a layoff notice. This is personal for me and it is

personal for every citizen of Burbank. It is personal for me because

of the obvious financial and personal devastation in the loss of a

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job. It is personal for me because my husband and I have a child in

these schools, schools we trusted to provide the best possible

education for our son, which is what every parent wants for their

children.

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It is personal for you too, if you have a child in these schools.

In my career, I have had more than 100 of your children in my

classroom and I have never accepted less than the best effort from

them or myself as their teacher.

Like most teachers I have had the privilege of working with, I

come in early, stay late, take work home every night and weekend, and

spend hundreds of dollars of my own to make the educational

experience all it can be for my students. I am not unusual in this

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and I do not begrudge it one bit. These children are worth every

effort. I thought the district and board felt the same way,

especially when I have repeatedly heard them state a top priority is

the retention of quality teachers. Is this true or just political lip

service? In a district that has traditionally paid less to teachers

than the surrounding districts, Burbank has managed to keep a

relatively stable staff due to loyalty and pride in our district. It

has been rewarded by some of the most ruthless cuts in the area.

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Burbank has chosen to send notices not only to any emergency

credentialed or beginning teachers, but to fully credentialed and

experienced teachers at an alarming rate. At the elementary level

alone, where most of the 20-to-1 classes are, about 40% of the

teachers were given notice. Parents need to ask their school district

who will be in the classrooms when the children return next fall.

It has been suggested to me that I hold off on looking for a new

job to wait and see if the layoffs happen or if some of us get called

back for next fall. Would you be willing to gamble your income on

such a hope? Are you willing to gamble your child’s education on the

hope that Burbank’s dedicated and professional staff will still be

available next fall?

These layoffs are personal for you even if you do not have a child

in Burbank’s public schools. As real estate agents will tell you,

Burbank’s schools are a big selling tool for homes. Communities with

poor public school systems do not enjoy the level of property values

that Burbank has achieved. Burbank citizens feel great pride in their

community and super public schools are a large source of that pride.

In response to some of the statements made in recent articles on

local education, a district official stated that the district intends

to start the 2003-2004 school year with the lower class sizes. Who

will be there to teach them? Teachers receiving preliminary layoff

notices have regrettably already started to look for new jobs. In

response to the principal of St. Robert Bellarmine’s statement that

class sizes are not important, with all due respect, private schools

have a different agenda for class sizes -- more students are more

paying heads. It takes only a little effort to imagine if you would

like your child to be one in a class of 20, or one in a class of 30

or more. I have been in classes of 30 and classes of 20 students. The

difference to the children’s education is enormous. Yes, we can teach

classes of 30 students and it might be “good enough.” Is “good

enough” good enough for your child? Not mine.

I urge parents and community members to speak with the teachers

and demand answers from our district, school board, and our state and

national legislators. I know there are severe budget problems, but

the label of “state budget problems” has become a convenient rug

under which other problems have been swept. I recall Burbank already

had a serious budget shortfall of its own before this. School board

members must acknowledge their responsibility in this mess. A few

years ago, I made a trip to Sacramento along with thousands of other

educators, administrators and parents to ask the governor to direct

some of the then-record budget surplus into education. Citizens need

to find out why the situation has changed so drastically in such a

short time. To accept less than a top-notch public education system

for our children is to accept second-rate status in the world for all

of us. Where has all the money gone?

To try to solve the problems with the futures of my middle-school

son, my 6-year-old students, your own children and our future

community members is unconscionable. Let your local school district,

school board, state and national legislators know that you feel this

way and you expect them to take acceptable action.

LAURA MIXON

First-grade teacher

McKinley Elementary School


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