I love the movie ConAir. It’s the type of fatalistic gallows humor I can truly appreciate. At one point in the movie, which is set mainly on an airplane, one of the convicts is dancing to that Southern Rock standard “Sweet Home Alabama”. At this point, Steve Buscemi’s character turns to Nicholas Cage’s character and says, “Define irony. Bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash.”
Now, what makes this particular film reference so very apropo to the situation educationally? Well, define irony. “Bunch of politicians moving educational financing in this state from the relatively stable bedrock of property taxes onto the back of the caveat emptor beast of burden state sales tax . . . right before the largest downturn in the American economy since the Great Depression.” People don’t buy stuff when they are going broke so sales tax revenue plummets, taking school funding with it. Oops, their bad!
My district got an email memo containing the minutes of the latest Teachers’ Advisory Council meeting laying out possiblilities of program, position, and pay cuts. Later that same day, we got a letter from the State Superintendent of Education letting us know that this year’s COLA raise was nixed and, barring a serious uptic in funds, this would be the last year for National Board Certification bonuses. He also mentioned that we might be facing statewide teacher / administrator / librarian pay cuts. If anyone has doubted it up to now, well brothers and sisters, the poo-poo has officially hit the fan.
The SSoE had a very valid point. Teacher salary makes up 85% of a typical district’s budget. Quite simply, we’re running out of room to cut. Much like a body that has burned all the fat off in a starvation process, we are down to consuming muscle.
My daddy always put it this way: “You cannot, no matter how much you try or how fast you move, put ten gallons of water in a five gallon bucket.” Personally, I don’t feel hopeless . . . more like “guarded.” I’m waiting on the other shoe to drop. This is one of those times when being a closet pessimist comes in handy — expectations are low so surprises will be few.
To close, let me cite another great Hollywood flick — All About Eve — with the inimitable Bette Davis when she, as Margot Channing says, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
And, if I might add, you may want to wash your feet, y’all. Water’s about all I can afford . . . at least for now.