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Thousands of US Teachers Lose Jobs as States Cut Budgets

Budget cuts have forced California and other states to reduce their number of teachers
Budget cuts have forced California and other states to reduce their number of teachers

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

America's recession ended in June of two thousand nine but recovery has been slow. Many states face budget problems and have cut spending in areas including education.

In California, thousands of teachers have lost their jobs. Veronica Pellegrin received a layoff notice in the mail.

VERONICA PELLEGRIN: "Getting the letter and seeing [you] will no longer be employed, your services will no longer be required -- it is very disheartening, to say the least, and frustrating."

Sixty percent of the teachers at the Mariposa-Nabi primary school in Los Angeles have received layoff notices.

Salvador Rodriguez, the school principal, has been able to provide computers for his students.

SALVADOR RODRIGUEZ: "We have to keep going and make it the best year possible with all these changes."

But fewer teachers mean bigger classes at his school. Mr. Rodriguez says there used to be twenty students to a teacher. By next year, he expects nearly thirty students in a class.

SALVADOR RODRIQUEZ: "If you cut personnel, they can not give that individual attention."

Teachers say this is true especially in schools with large immigrant populations where English is not the first language of many students.

Los Angeles has the nation's second-largest public school system after New York City. The district has dismissed ten to twelve percent of its staff during the past two years. About half of those laid off were teachers, says John Deasy, the head of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

JOHN DEASY: "The recession has had an enormous impact on the state budget and we have had a huge drop in funding."

An education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, John Rogers, says other states have also laid off teachers.

JOHN ROGERS: "Some projections estimate that across the country, one hundred sixty thousand teachers have received layoff notices this spring."

But he says the situation in California is worse because the state was already facing a budget deficit before the recession. Also, California was spending less per student than the national average.

Primary and secondary schools in California receive most of their funding from the state government. AJ Duffy is president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union. Mr. Duffy says the amount of funding each year depends on the economy.

AJ DUFFY: "In the past two and a half to three years, we have lost twenty billion dollars in funding for public education."

And Superintendent John Deasy expects more changes if the state budget does not improve.

JOHN DEASY: "We are cutting all of our librarians, our nurses. We would be forced to close and consolidate schools."

Most California school districts have already reduced the number of days per year that students must attend classes. Other states are also talking about shortening the school year to save money.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. You can read and listen to this program and watch a related video at I'm Steve Ember.


Contributing: Elizabeth Lee