Brentwood schools have taken a beating. Today, members from the unions that represent workers at the schools — Bentwood Teachers Association, CSEA and Teamsters Local 237 — joined together to wear blue clothing. On top of blue shirts, they wore blue stickers.
They really, really, really want to be able to reclaim the promise of a solid public education. They have watched so much of the funding for the district disappear they could be “poster people” for why public education needs an infusion of money.
There are 18,000 students a day who are taught at Brentwood and, each year, there are fewer teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and social workers to educate them. Brentwood TA President Kevin Coyne said the local union once had 1,400 members and now they have fewer than 1,200.
There are fewer teaching assistants, custodians, hall monitors, kitchen workers and buildings and grounds workers, members of CSEA and Teamsters, to help students and to run the school.
“We’ve been shrinking drastically,” Coyne said. The effects of that include no art for grades kindergarten through second and no librarians for 11 elementary schools and two kindergarten centers “at a time when we’re rolling out Common Core which has a foundation of literacy, ” he said, dismayed.
Last year, seven social workers were excessed. Guidance counselors have also been let go, leaving the remaining counselors to handle 450 students each.
“We’re the largest suburban district in New York,” Coyne said. “We have 80 percent students on free and reduced lunch, a high immigrant population, nearly 70 percent Latino.” Immigrant students, age 16-21, come to school for Pathway to Citizenship — and some have not had schooling since second grade, he said. Naturally, this impacts their scores and the ratings of teachers.
Monday’s Day of Action asks for increased funding for pre-K through college; a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing; and a return to an emphasis on teaching, not testing. Coyne, who is a middle-school math teacher, said the Common Core and testing have been “a drastic shift” for students. With the new program, it sometimes takes a class 40 minutes to do one math problem.
“They’ve gutted the music program,” Coyne said, noting proudly that the school has a “National Class” marching band which has won awards from the Grammy Foundation. Despite the achievements, “they keep stripping away music teachers.”
Locally, Coyne said his TA has been very active on these issues, hosting forums on Common Core and picketing the local offices of lawmakers.