By Joseph Harkins
SACRAMENTO _ Experience -- apparently -- is not always the best teacher.
Despite being named Sacramento’s “Teacher of the Year,” the nine-year instructor was given a pink slip last week, a victim to massive school budget cuts that have wrecked havoc on California’s public education system statewide.
“It hurts on a personal level because I really love what I do,” said Apperson. “But, professionally and politically or economically, I get why it happened.”
Apperson can take solace that she is not alone. As many as 33,500 teaching jobs nationwide have been lost since September, according to a recent analysis by the Washington Post.
The Sacramento Unified School District was facing a $43 million budget shortfall, which it addressed in part through cuts in its workforce – including teachers. A district spokesperson said the way teacher layoffs are handled is mandated by state law, and that the pink slips were based on seniority.
Gabe Ross called the situation "awful" and said, "It's another sign of how education's funding really needs an overhaul."
On her school biography, Apperson wrote, “My favorite teachers growing up were the ones who challenged me to go out of my comfort level a little bit, strive for the stars, and work hard."
“Being ‘Teacher of the Year’ is really a humbling honor with so many other dedicated professionals,” she said.
Now, Apperson stands out amongst her peers in a most unenviable position -- she is out of a job -- just days after President Barack Obama prodded Washington lawmakers to help cash-strapped states with education funding.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” said one Sutterville parent. “I hate to see any teacher lose their job, but when you have teachers that are so wonderful and winning awards – like Ms. Apperson – they shouldn’t be cut.”
Apperson said she is hopeful that voters will pass the state budget this fall and rescue her job.
Under the statewide proposal, a quarter cent would temporarily be added to state sales tax, and those earning $250,000 or more would see higher income taxes. If voters reject the increases, California Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing $6 billion in additional spending cuts, almost all of which would come from K-12 schools. Some districts may have to shorten the school year by up to three weeks.
“I’m going to think positively and believe that it can be turned around,” said Apperson, who thinks she is No. 8 on the district’s rehire list. “Everybody has a say in November to make education first.”