Friday, May 21, 2010

It is raining! - Or Just Politics?

This week our county commissioners, who hold the purse strings for our county's public schools, decided to deny 4.5 million dollars in funding for our school systems budget next year. Last night the school board met to make more cuts in the budget, which is not yet finalized.

Top of the list is elementary foreign language - we know that children learn languages easier when they are young - this hurts our students. Our school's Spanish teacher also does double duty as a translator. Who will translate next year?

Second on the list is technology facilitators - sounds harmless, but what do they do? They keep a school running with the technology that they have. Many teachers are tech savvy, but many are not. Do we want to loose good teachers because they are not tech savvy? Take away their help and what is left? Who does the web page? Who diagnoses problems and sends in equipment for repair? Who runs the computer labs and distance learning labs? Who sets up the reading software (AR/STAR, Orchard)or other school databased learning software? Who facilitates projects for collaboration over time and space (using wiki's, blogs, skype, or videoconferencing)? This is 21st century learning and the skills needed by our students to compete in today's world. Again, this is short-sighted. Our particular school was fortunate enough to move the 3rd-5th graders into a new technology rich building. We have state of the art technology in each classroom and a videoconference room for trips to state museums and other schools and countries. What parent doesn't want his/her child to go to a museum once a month? What parent would want to see this equipment sitting unused due to no personnel?

A third loss for our school is our office assistant. For the 28 years I have been at this school, this position has taken care of teachers clerical needs such as supplies and making copies for students. Her equipment is pretty sophisticated - another task that would be difficult for teachers to do as they are in the classroom. This equipment would soon be in dis-repair and wouldn't work. Just another stress for classroom teachers.

The list was about 20 items long - all of these jobs are needed to work with our students. I could write a paragraph about each of these jobs and how they will affect our students and teachers. By the time teachers make up for all of this lost help, when will they teach, or when will they be able to go home if they stay all of the extra hours needed to do the other "chores" they have had help with in the past?

Do we want the best education for our students? Do we care about quality? This is the question.

Our school board is in a difficult spot in trying to make the budget work. They have spoken up for the employees and cut with regrets. But their question to the county commissioners and my question to the county commissioners is the same - What kind of education do you want for your children and grandchildren? Top qualitly or mediocore?

The county commissioners are trying to make the point that it is the state's job to pay for public education. Well, that is only acceptable if the county commissioners are willing to allow our students a less than top quality education.

Today's newspaper, the Winston-Salem Journal, put the cuts at 4.5 million and said the county has 100 million in cash reserve - their rainy day fund. I do believe it is raining. Where is the umbrella for our students?