Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Community Meeting on School Budget

Well, I've just come from a "community budget forum" regarding the various cuts that will have to be made to cover a $900,000 shortfall in our district's budget. (You can find all of the in-depth data here.) I was actually in the process of shifting my weight to get up to talk when the meeting was adjourned. (My dad joked that they saw me coming.) So, since I didn't say it in public, I'll say what I had to say here. (Don't worry. It's not much.)

Although many of the cuts presented were just that--cuts that would result in loss of students, teachers, and/or other personnel and activities--a couple of "cuts" seem to be, to me, beneficial. For example, one possible option was combining Reading and Writing classes (which are offered separately in grades 4-8) into one English or Language Arts class. 

I've heard arguments for both sides. But I think that this move has the potential to deepen a student's understanding of literature and the English language in general. It gives students a chance to see the big picture and how everything ties together in the end. For example, a class can look at particular styles of language, and then see how they have been used in literary works. Unless the two separate classes are exceptionally well coordinated, they cannot play off of each other in this manner--and if they are this well coordinated, what's the point of having two?

Then, another potential "cut" would be the loss of the NWEA test. Multiple times a year, we lose classroom time to this computerized test. Of course, the reason this was frowned upon at the meeting was the loss of "data" about students. (Insert eye roll here.) Really--that score is just a number. In all reality, it doesn't mean that much. It just leads to more stress among students and staff alike, and I would not lose sleep if it went bye-bye.

Finally, the possibility of undepartmentalizing our fourth and fifth grades was also mentioned.1 I was never a fan of this idea, because I do not feel that students of this age are developmentally ready for these conditions. My mother passed away when I was in fourth grade, and my teacher was incredibly supportive of me in this time. However, younger students don't have as close relationship with teachers, and in similar situations, cannot receive this support.

Well, I'm afraid that's all for this time. I didn't have much to say at the meeting tonight, and I just wanted to get what I did out there!

1. Although this is probably technically a teacher reduction, I would not mind seeing this implemented in a way that did not cause this loss. With student to teacher ratios well over 20:1 for most of the district, we can certainly use as many teachers as we can afford to keep.

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