Forty-three-year-old Benita Scheckel has been a teaching music for 11 years. She expected to teach at Blair School, in Pasadena, Calif., until her retirement.
"There's this feeling of this is where I'm supposed to be," said Schenkel.
This spring she got a pink slip, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker. An 18 percent cut in state funds totaling $23 million means her job is likely to be cut.
"I don't know why, but I didn't see it coming," she said.
With their usual sources of funding -- property taxes and state revenue -- dropping in this deep recession, desperate school districts are erasing hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs.
Every state is getting hit. That includes 36,000 teachers who could lose their jobs in California; twenty thousand in Illinois; sixteen-thousand six hundred in New York. So many teachers are out of work that districts with one or two openings are inundated with thousands of applications.
"We want to stave off an education catastrophe," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "And the cost of inaction for our children and for our country I think is unacceptably high."
With all the cuts the next school year is looking like the bleakest and most austere in 50 years, with school districts not only cutting teachers, but cutting programs, cutting school hours, enlarging classes, closing schools - all to save money. In many schools, art, music, physical education, even counseling could be history.
Across the country teachers are protesting. Many states are pressing those with jobs to give back recent pay raises.
"My members have sacrificed over and over and we continue to do so, but we also deserve to have a living wage," said Julie Washington, of United Teachers of Los Angeles.
Cash strapped states aren't budging. Just last month a majority of New Jersey voters said no to more taxes for schools and threw the problem back to the schools and the teachers.
"If you're really putting children first, then put your salary demands aside for a year so the children don't get hurt," said New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
"I think we're going to lose all that we tried to build if we do not value education," said Scheckel.
When students return in the fall they'll face a new equation - whether fewer teachers and less money equal a quality education.