An inside look at budget cuts impact on education

The teacher protests are over, the decision to layoff close to a thousand teachers in the San Diego Unified School District has been made. Wednesday night KUSI's Ed Lenderman takes an in depth look at the impact of the cuts on one elementary school.

We've focused a lot on the numbers in our reporting of the San Diego city schools budget crisis, now, we take our camera inside the campus of one of the schools hit the hardest from the massive budget cuts. Johnson Elementary School in Emerald Hills.

Not only is it the district's only elementary school with a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics magnet program, it's a resident magnet school as well– meaning any student living in Emerald Hills can attend. A huge plus given that the majority of Johnson's student makeup is predominately socio-economically disadvantaged children.  

Michelle Bryant is justifiably proud of the school's academics performance index, after all, she's been Johnson's magnet resource teacher since 2007.

Now for the bad news, the school district's budget cuts not only involve layoffs but it eliminates programs.

The resident magnet program at Johnson Elementary is being eliminated. And even if the staff wanted to try maintain the extras beyond the core curriculum, it would seem impossible given that 8 of Johnson's 24 teachers have gotten pink slips.

Bryant is a wife and mother of two children, she says of the cuts, “it effects you, it effects your family, your workplace. I think I've cried more than (recently then) I've cried (all) year.”

As wrenching as this is for Bryant she says she's more focused on the kids and how all of this will impact them.

“We do not have the money to train the new teachers that are going to replace us, with our programs, that upsets me, that we're going to lose the momentum, because we're here for the children, we're here to educate them,” said Bryant.

Michelle was referring to teachers with more tenure who survived the cuts, but it won't be a like number replacing those lost.

Bryant worries that the school's science and engineering labs won't survive.

This is science teacher Michael Clark's first year at Johnson, he said the last school he was at, he had been there for 14 years and chose to go to Johnson Elementary to be part of their science and engineering program.

The irony is, the very things that have made Johnson Elementary and schools like it, effective and have the test scores to back it up, are the very things that are now on the chopping block.

Yes, the students are taught science in the classroom says Clark, but it's in the labs where they get the extra support, the hands-on instruction. Thus, he says the kids develop a greater interest and understanding of science and engineering and math than they would if they were taught only in a classroom setting.

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