Published Online: January 22, 2010

UCLA Report Details Recession's Impact on Schools

Widespread teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and increased economic hardship for children are among the impacts California's budget crisis and the recession have had on public schools and students, according to a report released Thursday.

Researchers at UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education and Access interviewed 87 elementary, middle and high principals across California to gauge the impact of the recession and budget cuts on student welfare and school learning environments.

Before the recession began, California K-12 public schools, which were among the nation's best in the 1960s, already ranked near the bottom nationally in many measures of academic achievement and school quality.

The economic downturn and state budget crisis has undermined recent academic gains and widened the disparity between schools in rich and poor communities, said John Rogers, the institute's director.

"It's taken California several steps backward on the road to improvement," Rogers said. "It's also harmed the long-term prospects for California to rebuild a quality education system."

The report, called "Educational Opportunities in Hard Times," found that:

• 62 percent of principals reported that teachers in their schools had been laid off, threatened with layoffs or reassigned to other schools. The number of actual layoffs was four times greater at schools in poorer communities than wealthier communities.

• 67 percent reported that class sizes had increased, with 74 percent of elementary school principals reporting larger class sizes.

• 75 percent reported that summer school had been reduced or eliminated.

• 75 percent reported reductions in instructional materials and supplies.

• 70 percent reported cuts to professional development programs.

• 67 percent reported growing housing insecurity, which includes homelessness, families moving in together and families moving away for economic reasons.

• 51 percent reported an increase in the health, psychological or social service needs of their students.

Many principals are seeing the impact on rising unemployment and poverty on their students as parents lose their jobs and homes, according to the report. About two-thirds said their schools have referred students and families to health and social service providers.

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