Budget Cuts Looming

By Jamie Speed, Fourth Grade Teacher from Bend, OR

Roughly 30 percent of the students at my school are English Language Learners, we house a very large Life Skills program, and we also house the district’s hearing impaired program. We are a Title I school, and nearly 70 percent of students qualify for the federal free lunch program.

I have been teaching for 16 years, and this is the first year in my career that I have had less than 30 students in my class. In my 4th grade class I have 24 students and it’s magical. It is a completely different teaching experience in terms of the quality of support I can provide students. I am a more effective teacher.

“I get very upset when people start talking about the possibility of more budget cuts. I don’t know how much more our schools can take.”

Not too long ago I had 37 students. The physical space alone becomes an issue. More importantly, you can’t get to know your students when class sizes are that big. With 37 students it takes much longer to figure out where they each are academically. This year I get to check-in with every kid, every day. I know them as learners, but I also know them as people. When I had 37 students, it felt like I was managing a small town. I was managing behavior more than actually teaching.

I get very upset when people start talking about the possibility of more budget cuts. I don’t know how much more our schools can take. Unlike at more affluent schools, at a low-income school, our parents don’t have the ability to provide a lot of financial support through fund raising. We rely on the state budget.

I would love to have our state representatives come try teaching for one day. Not an hour, not a lesson, but for one day. Try it from morning to night when your morning prep is taken because a parent needs to talk to you about something important, and then you’re trying to go to the bathroom, but a student needs you to listen to their problem during your break, and you have 37 students you’re planning for and thinking about and you have recess duty.

I wish our state representatives could experience what it feels like to go home at night and worry about the families you work with. I go to bed each night, and I worry about my students and how I can serve them better. I want our state representatives to understand that the decisions they make about funding schools will have a critical impact on the lives of Oregon’s children. So don’t forget about us.

Jaime Speed is a fourth grade teacher and instructional coach in Bend, OR. #OReducatorvoices

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