Things are not looking great for America's teachers. In a stagnated US economy -- an economy many say is more the norm than were past eras of gross overspending -- big, poorly badly managed states like California, New York, and Illinois are facing serious budget issues, and their teachers have been living under the cloud of lay-offs for some time now.
Following a temporary injection of federal aid, 2009 managed not to be so bad, but money is running out and new economic stumuli are highly controversial in this uneasy political environment. After so many bailouts, America's Congress doesn't seem to be in the mood for even more deficit spending.
A new wave of layoffs is in the works, and the total number could top 100,000 teachers nationwide. Teaching union contracts and/or state laws stipulate that layoffs be done by seniority, so regardless of the quality of the individual, the newest teachers will be pink-slipped first.
Cutting back on teaching staff hurts students at the lowest-performing schools, as they are inclined to have a higher proportion of new teachers. Some Los Angeles Unified School District campuses saw 50 to 70 percent of their teaching faculty pink-slipped last year.
While the norm trends to firing those most recently hired, there are exceptions. In Mayor Richard M. Daley's Chicago, the School Board is interpreting a new state law as giving it the power to instead layoff the city's 200 most inept teachers first. While this may seem like common sense, there has been resistance. Karen Lewis, recently elected head of Chicago's teacher's union, claims that there is no fair way of determining who those 200 incompetent teachers should be. Reformers scoff at such criticism, saying that local principals know only too well which teachers are performing poorly.
States such as Colorado, Tennessee, and Delaware have changed their laws to base tenure appointments and firing decisions on a teacher's performance. However, only a few locations can use it in determining who will be laid off, like Washington D.C. While Arizona has had its fair share of troubles with teachers as of late, it has gone the furthest on this account and made it illegal to use seniority as a basis for layoffs, tenure, and rehiring.
These money troubles will only continue to shrink state budgets into the next year, and local school districts have already trimmed as much as possible, while stretching what resources they have to the maximum. Weeding out teachers may be the only recourse for some school districts.
If teachers face layoffs, what are there alternatives? A strong choice is to use their current set of skills and apply them to teaching EF/ESL. Being experienced in a classroom setting, developing their English teaching skills specifically should be no problem for a recently laid off teacher. This option makes use of their current skills. And with the globe's emerging economies, such as China, Turkey, and South America, rebounding quickly from the global economic downtown, the overseas ESL market is both resilient and hiring new staff.
The good news is that there will always be alternatives to failing budgets, schools, and institutes. Charter and private education will naturally pick up some of the academic deficit, while a diverse and international EF/ESL field offers tremendous opportunity right now to teachers in transition.