Teacher Layoffs: A Local Perspective

Kaye Kory is no-nonsense. A former Mason School Board member for 10 years, Kory is an educator by trade. Now as delegate for the 38th District (Mason District of Fairfax County, VA), education remains at the forefront of Kory's career and a hot-button issue for Virginia residents. With the number of teacher layoffs sweeping the nation and the fate of public school systems everywhere hanging in the balance, Kory finds herself dealing with these issues even more.

I recently got the chance to speak with Kory; in addition to offering her opinion about the overall state of public education in this country, she provided a local perspective about what is happening to the public schools in Virginia.

-- See average salaries for jobs in the state of Virginia.

Q. What are your thoughts on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" plan to privatize the public school system in this country?

A. A lot of what Duncan did in the past helped Chicago; but it is disappointing to me that Duncan and the president cannot distinguish that not all areas are the same. What works for one school system does not always work for another.

Q. What sort of message do these teacher firings send to our nation?

A. I believe that many of the current education problems we're are facing stem from the No Child Left Behind Act. While No Child Left Behind was well-intentioned, it is flawed because it uses standardized test scores almost exclusively as a measuring stick for students and an evaluator of a teacher's skills. Standardized test scores are only a piece of the education puzzle, not the entire puzzle.

-- See average salary for an elementary, middle and high school teacher.

Q. What will happen to the future of public education in this country if privatization becomes the norm?

A. Teachers are taking a PR hit nationwide because of the media. Teachers are being blamed for not turning out more scientists or bilingual students or a hundred other things. It is really sad that teachers are being attacked for what they are not doing, instead of applauded for all that they are doing.

Q. Tell me about what is happening with teachers in the state of Virginia as these mass layoffs sweep California, Michigan and other states?

A. For the third year in a row, teachers have not gotten an increase in any part of their salary -- raise, cost of living, travel expenses etc. -- which essentially means that teachers in Virginia are making less and less as the years march on. It is really disappointing.

Q. What does this mean for the future? Can we expect to see even more layoffs and cuts across the nation?

A. It is upsetting to me as an educator, because in these tough economic times there are some very educated people out there considering becoming teachers because it has always been a rewarding and stable profession, but who may choose to remain in another position because of all that is going on in education now. We could miss out on getting those people to become excellent teachers.

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