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Schools in Crisis: Part 1

February 20, 2011

By Stacia Kalinoski

EUGENE, Ore. — The state of Eugene and Springfield’s public schools is no doubt in crisis mode right now.

4J, Bethel and Springfield districts all are facing multi-million budget cuts next year.

This week we begin the first in a five-part series that will look at all the affects of those cuts from inside the classroom.

From class sizes to furlough days, to all three superintendents’ views for the future, each night zeroes in on one major issue. Sunday night is an overview of what’s to come.

“Ouch, that hurts,” a group of Prairie Mountain Elementary students responded, as their teacher wrote the simple sentence on the white board.

They’re three simple words that pretty much sum up the state of the current education system.

It’s also reflective of the feeling that most districts have been experiencing lately.

The ‘ouch’ of course coming by way of multi-million dollar budget cuts, that come with ramifications no one completely understands.

“When we’re looking at a shortfall of $30 million, I don’t even want to go there right now,” said Charles Wright, a father of Parker elementary students.

Some of the fall-out is easy to spot. There’s more kids cramming into classrooms.

“This year I have a class that has 56 students in it,” said South Eugene senior Carter Thallon.

There’s more furlough days.

“It seems the kids are seeing Thursday as Friday and it seems they’re begining to expect that,” said Barbara Stater, Holt Elementary 5th grade teacher.

And in some cases, entire schools are being shut down.

“Every year that passes, the kids get a little less,” Wright said.

“We have to ask ourselves how much we really value that all the young people in our community receive a quality education,” said Lynette Williams, South Eugene Spanish teacher.

That value though, is up against factors the districts can’t control.

Teachers say they’re expected to do more with less.

The education system is finding itself in the exact same position as a private business fighting through the recession: Produce the same bottom line as you did five years ago, with fewer employees.

“I’m a second year so I’m certaintly in the realm of will I have a job next year,” Asher Tubman, South Eugene Physics teacher.

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