Hard Times for U.S. Schools
As a new school year begins, school systems in the United States are facing record numbers of funding difficulties and students who are homeless or living in poverty because of the soaring costs of fuel and food, and the overall downturn in the economy.
All across the nation, school systems are trying to find ways to cope with drastically slashed budgets and parents who are having difficulty providing for their children. “The big national picture is that food and fuel costs are going up and school revenues are not,” said Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association. “We’re in a recession, and it’s having a dramatic impact on schools.” (NYT.com). Thousands of teachers, administrators, and maintenance workers have been laid off nationwide.
Many districts have reduced the number of busses in use or changed routes to lessen the number of stops, and a few districts have ended bus use either completely or for high schools. Some school boards in Maine are concerned about being able to afford heating for classrooms in the coming winter. Hundreds of districts have restricted travel for field trips to save fuel and some have raised prices on cafeteria meal in response to ballooning food costs. Some more rural systems have adopted 4-day school weeks.
Everywhere, schools are serving increasing numbers of children in poverty. Local charities giving away school supplies are severely lacking in resources to cope with the number of needy families. The number of children who qualify for reduced price or free meals has skyrocketed in the last year and administrators suspect the number will only continue to rise.
Often, during times of economic hardship and even in times of stability, it seems that the budgets for public education are some of the first to get cut. When money is tight for a whole community and schools are forced to reduce costs, it falls on parents who are already struggling to make up the difference. Many teachers must pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets. Children get stuck in the middle in these situations, with schools and parents unable to afford the costs of equipping them with the necessities to get a proper education.
The public school system is simply another in a series of interrelated casualties during America’s economic crisis.