Classes with 50 students, students with no desks, and one science teacher for an entire campus: Welcome to the world of high-school budget cuts.
Education cuts have become routine over the past few years, and the billions slashed from school district budgets are making it more difficult for students to learn. Indeed, the results of a survey of 1,850 Los Angeles County high school students by the independent teen-produced newspaper L.A. Youth reveal just how much the cuts are affecting them.
Thanks to teacher layoffs, class sizes at some high schools have skyrocketed to 50 students—even in math and English classes. Some 37 percent of students report that they sometimes don't have a desk to sit at. Sixty-seven percent say overcrowded classrooms make them feel like the teachers don't have enough time to teach, and 30 percent say they've been unable to participate in a program or class—like AP courses—because it's no longer offered at their school.
At a time when tech literacy is an essential skill, 52 percent of students say there aren’t enough computers. Or they're often broken, and there's no one to fix them. Despite a court ruling that all Los Angeles Unified School District students must have the books they need, 51 percent say they've had to share textbooks with a classmate because there weren’t enough copies to go around. Fifty-seven percent also say they've had to copy information projected by an overhead because their school didn’t have enough paper to make copies.
"We have only one science teacher for the entire high school," writes Felix Ruano, a 16-year-old student at the Ambassador School of Global Leadership, in L.A. Youth. He goes on to describe how that teacher, who is only credentialed to teach chemistry, is teaching physics—or, at least, is attempting to do so. "He shows physics videos and we teach ourselves from our textbook," says Ruano. And, as has been seen elsewhere, "all but one of the restrooms" at Ruano's school "have been closed because we don’t have enough custodians to clean them."
Ruano notes that despite the challenges caused by funding cuts, there is a bright spot in the data: 97 percent of his peers say they plan to go to college. But without "properly trained teachers and the best resources," says Ruano, it's not likely that every student will achieve that goal. "Unless schools fix these problems," he says, "students could lose hope."