by Jess Hoogendoorn
As students pack up their pencils and books and head for summer vacation, many teachers all over the state of New Jersey will be doing the same, except their vacations may be permanent.
The $475 million cut in aid to public school districts proposed by Gov. Chris Christie has many education majors wondering where they will find a job if the budget is passed.
“I will have to be willing to broaden the area that I search and apply for jobs in, so that I can have a chance at getting hired,” said sophomore Keith Warncke. “I am going to have to look in PA for a job, as well as N.J., because of the cuts.”
The severe cuts are aimed at reducing the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit that Christie inherited from previous governors, federal budget cuts and the recession.
Similar actions are occurring throughout the nation as states try to scale back spending. According to The New York Times, California may lay off 22,000 public school employees, Illinois may cut 17,000 and New York may slash 15,000 jobs. However, New Jersey is making the latest headlines with Christie’s recently announced cuts.
Dr. Tamar Jacobson, the chair of the education department, says that she is appalled by the proposed budget cuts.
“Education should be one of the areas that is cut last, and even then, cuts should be made with care and knowledge about what all children need to learn,” Jacobson explained.
According to Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, the budget will not be defeated.
“The budget should pass in a form with only minor changes. This is because the state’s fiscal condition basically requires these kinds of cuts, and those who oppose the cuts don’t really have an alternative to propose,” he said. “Even reinstituting a surtax on those making $400,000 or more will only generate about $800 million, which is not enough to do more than soften the sharpest edges of cuts to schools.”
Since the budget will not be voted on until June, graduates from the school of education are engaged in “a waiting game at this stage,” said Joyce Tyler, director of Career Services.
Graduates have to wait and see how many job openings there will be after tenured teachers retire and employees who were let go are potentially called back. It is likely that the majority of May graduates won’t find out if they have a job until late August or early September.
Many education majors are also concerned with how the cuts will impact children in New Jersey public schools, who may be their future pupils.
“I feel that the budget cuts to education are extremely bad for the country and especially for New Jersey,” said freshman Emily Firth, an education major. “Children’s activities will be cut. Sports, music and the arts, and many modes of transportation are being cut already. It’s just not a good way to try and save money all around.”
According to Dworkin, most New Jersey residents understand the need for the cuts, but are critical of how they are being distributed.
“The political question is not whether education has to be cut, but whether education takes the biggest hit while others get off,” he said. “This has been the Democratic message: The governor calls for shared sacrifice, but then exempts the wealthiest New Jerseyans from sharing the pain.”
Ilona Chasar, a sophomore education major, said she understands that the economy is not doing well, but does not think teachers are the right ones to target.
“Teachers are the people that help everyone get to their careers in life,” she said. “No matter who you ask, everyone can name at least one teacher that has made an impact in their life.”
Some people have turned out to protest the cuts. About 18,000 New Jersey high school students walked out of class on Tuesday to demonstrate their disapproval.
Dworkin suggests that if people are going to protest, they should be targeting the Republicans who will be under immense pressure to support the budget proposed by a Republican governor.
As they look toward the future, some sophomore education majors are expressing concern over how their future careers will pan out.
“When I student teach, I wanted to coach or get involved with some extracurricular activity, and with the cuts, if I go to a school with limited activities it will be hard to become a part of it,” said a sophomore education major who wished to remain anonymous. “On the other hand, when I go to look for a job, the budget cuts will affect me greatly. Right now there are hundreds of teachers without jobs, teachers with much more experience in the field, which will make getting a job harder than it already is.”
Sophomore Amy Crowe has a bleak outlook regarding her future employment as well.
“I would like to come out of school feeling optimistic about finding a teaching job, but I do not know what the availability of jobs would be for me,” she said.
Tyler suggested students look at all of their options and consider surrounding states.
“[Students should] make sure they are casting their nets beyond New Jersey’s borders,” she said.
Although finding a job is high on an education major’s priority list, most education majors agreed that public school students would be the biggest losers.
“[The cuts] are harming the students more than the teachers, which isn’t right,” said the anonymous sophomore. “Students deserve the best, because they are the future, and right now I feel like they are being cheated by the cuts to education.”