Friday, March 19, 2010

Budget Cuts

Cory brought home a letter from the school superintendent today asking for input on upcoming budget cuts in the district.  It seems the budget is always being cut.  It's kind of surprising that they are able to have school at all!  And now, due to cutbacks in state aid coupled with a two year decrease in the state imposed revenue limits, the district is looking at having to trim $325,000 to $500,000 from next year's operating budget.  Pretty hard considering the district is already operating on a very tight budget. 

So, they're asking for input from district residents - things we value in our schools, and what things should be considered for reduction.  Now this won't really affect Cory, since he'll be graduating at the end of this year, but he's still worried that they'll decide to cut out the arts programs and no longer offer classes like art and choir and band.  That wouldn't be surprising, because that does seem to be what a lot of districts choose to cut.  After all, kids can live without music and art, right?  (Here's a whole list of resources that says otherwise - The Arts Improve Education

There's even talk around school that the foreign language classes will be cut.  I don't see how they can do that, considering that foreign language is required by many colleges.  Not offering a foreign language could make it extremely hard for students to go on to college.  They might be able to consider choosing just one language instead of the two currently offered.  French or Spanish?  How do you choose?

Instead of cutting Arts, maybe they should think about cutting the sports program down.  It's not like our teams are really any good, anyway.  And they could cut out classes like Automobile Ownership (seriously, do we really need a class to tell kids how to take care of a car?) and some of the agriculture, animal care, and shop classes.  Maybe if kids want to learn a skill like that, the district could partner with some local farmers, woodworkers, or garage owners and set up some kind of internship program.  That is if these kids are really looking to learn this stuff and not just looking for an easy class.

The same goes for the computer classes in our district.  In this day and age, computer skills are really important, so it's good that our school offers classes in web page design and computer programming.  However, the computer classes my kids have taken have been a total waste of time - basically a study hall with a credit.  So, the school either needs to get a decent teacher who will actually teach our students something, or they might as well cut the computer classes.  Boy, wouldn't that make our school district seem backward?  No computer classes.

The more I think about it, the more I realize what tough decisions the school district - not only ours but probably every one in the state and the country - has to make.  No matter what they do, they won't be able to make everyone happy and will probably make a lot of people very unhappy.  I'm sure the goal is to give the students the best education possible, and I think that means accepting that this is a small district and students are not necessarily entitled to a whole lot of choices and non-essential classes.  If they get a basic education of core classes, they can go on to college or technical school to learn the rest later.

But, like I said, my kid is graduating, so this won't really affect him.  I'll still have to send back the letter with my thoughts and suggestions, though.  If you've got kids in school, what do you think?  What classes are important?  Which ones less so?  How many times can a school district cut the budget and still educate students?