Widespread teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and increased economic hardship for children are among the impacts California’s budget crisis and the recession have had on public schools and students, according to a report released Thursday.
Researchers at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access interviewed 87 elementary, middle and high principals across California to gauge the impact of the recession and budget cuts on student welfare and school learning environments.
Before the recession began, California K-12 public schools, which were among the nation’s best in the 1960s, already ranked near the bottom nationally in many measures of academic achievement and school quality.
The economic downturn and state budget crisis has undermined recent academic gains and widened the disparity between schools in rich and poor communities, said John Rogers, the institute’s director.
“It’s taken California several steps backward on the road to improvement,” Rogers said. “It’s also harmed the long-term prospects for California to rebuild a quality education system.”
The report, called “Educational Opportunities in Hard Times,” found that:
— 62 percent of principals reported that teachers in their schools had been laid off, threatened with layoffs or reassigned to other schools. The number of actual layoffs was four times greater at schools in poorer communities than wealthier communities.
— 67 percent reported that class sizes had increased, with 74 percent of elementary school principals reporting larger class sizes.
— 75 percent reported that summer school had been reduced or eliminated.
— 75 percent reported reductions in instructional materials and supplies.
— 70 percent reported cuts to professional development programs.
— 67 percent reported growing housing insecurity, which includes homelessness, families moving in together and families moving away for economic reasons.
— 51 percent reported an increase in the health, psychological or social service needs of their students.
Many principals are seeing the impact on rising unemployment and poverty on their students as parents lose their jobs and homes, according to the report. About two-thirds said their schools have referred students and families to health and social service providers.
The Lake Tahoe Unified School District will be part of a three-year, million dollar grant from the California State Department of Education for enhanced and ongoing professional development for teachers in grades three through eight. The California Mathematics and Science Partnership program seeks to establish partnerships to improve the academic achievement of students in mathematics and science, according to a prepared release.
Lake Tahoe Unified joins school districts in Modesto and Stockton for the Summit to Sand grant, which totals $339,201 per year for three years. More than 30 teachers have been recruited for a three-year professional development program that draws upon the diverse geography of California to educate teachers and motivate students. Teachers will receive instruction in life, earth and physical science, focusing on the natural environment of the state of California, in order to positively impact students’ English language arts and science achievement. Faculty from the Lake Tahoe, Columbia and San Joaquin Delta community colleges will provide instruction at three summer institutes from 2010 through 2012.
“This grant will provide important funds to improve science education in the district,” said district superintendent Dr. James Tarwater. “We are very excited to have been funded and to partner with districts and community colleges in our area and in other areas of the state.”
Additional partners include Tahoe Environmental Research Center at University of California, Davis, the San Joaquin County Office of Education, California State University, Monterey Bay, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.