It certainly has been awhile since the Hurricane has been up and running. I can only notice the irony that the state of the site mirrors my career in some unusual way. For those that don’t know me, I spent my first fourteen years of my career as a teacher and counselor before our beloved governor and legislature decided to cut the education budget.
Of course, how much they cut the budget largely depends on which accountants you choose to believe. I could give you numbers, but I think it would be far more effective to give you my story. It might sound like an interesting story, but I’m sure it is shared by thousands of Texas school teachers. I hope it serves as a stark reminder that the decisions that government makes have real consequences.
I worked in a Texas school district that continues to lose a ton of enrollment. So, the district shut down schools in an effort to stay above float financially. That meant that teachers, counselors, and even a few administrators got their pink slip. I was one of those. Naturally, it happened when the whole state was cutting back. So, there wasn’t a soft spot for me to land. The next two years would be spent in some sort of career abyss I never dreamed possible when I walked across the stage to get my undergraduate and masters degrees.
I spent time working at a mental hospital as a kind of babysitter. There would be the stretch I spent working at Barnes and Noble during the Christmas season making minimum wage. Following that, I sold DirecTv packages at Sam’s for minimum wage and commission. Those experiences were humbling and sometimes humiliating at the same time. Sometimes I saw people I know and they wondered why I was there. Well, all I could say was to thank Rick Perry.
Last year, I swallowed hard and came back to work for my current district as a bus driver. It was a little better than minimum wage and I could get back into my retirement program. Later in the year, I became a teacher’s aide where I helped support Special Education students. I did all of this for around twelve dollars an hour. In many cases, I was more qualified than the teacher in the room, but I had to accept my fate and wait for my opportunity.
Fortunately for me, my opportunity came this year and I am back in the classroom as a classroom teacher. I’m not too concerned about what the future holds. I’m just trying to enjoy it as long as I possibly can. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you have until its gone. Occasionally, I look back and become angered by what happened, but I also think with empathy about what happened to my compatriots that are locked out of the profession.
Your legislator might spin you a tale about how they came in and saved public education in Texas by adding four billion dollars to the budget. Where I come from, you don’t get credit for putting the cookies you stole back in the cookie jar. To make matters worse, to continue with the analogy, the legislature stole six cookies and returned four of them to the jar. That’s not heroism. In fact, it’s barely human.
The ultra conservatives will talk about cutting much needed waste. I suppose there might be something to say for austerity as I’m sure there is waste in every budget. I refuse to look at myself as waste, but for two years I was lost in a wasteland with thousands of my friends. I refuse to look at them as waste either. So, I will differ with them on the need to cut the budget to the bone. Nothing will get those two years back and they will forever be lost in terms of retirement benefits. It will never be lost from my memory, so I will always remember those that were responsible for making it happen.