Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cuts hurt Kids

This week, I've heard several people say "They keep talking about budget cuts, but I don't see any affect.  Not really.  Do you?"
I've cited a few things, and been brushed off.  I think they just want to justify things to themselves, and hide in the sand.  But I just got back from Back to School night.  So here's the low down on how, exactly, cuts are hurting the elementary school crowd.  (Middle school BTS isn't for awhile yet)
  •  Art Teacher -- Gone.  I know art is a fluff subject to some.  But creativity is important.  Experimenting with new ways to express yourself is an important part of taking care of the whole child.  And art in particular is a relevant class to a variety of rising job markets, maybe not oil and canvass painters but graphic design and the like are an important part of digital communities and marketing.  But art will now be left up to the teachers and their limited supply of materials and time.  (While the official Art Teacher had an Art Curriculum; exploring impressionists and various techniques; regular teachers need to also prepare curriculum for reading, writing, mathematics and geography.)  
  • Supplies are limited.  Parents are requested to supply the classroom with pencils, lined paper and copy paper in addition to their own student's desk-supplies.  And of course, donations of tissue and hand sanitizer if you want them available.  Forget allergy friendly accommodations...Whatever parents bring, they're grateful for. 
  • Music Program -- Gone.  There are still band classes in the middle and high school levels.  But the elementary program has been eliminated.  Although not all kids took advantage of the option, those who did tended to have higher test scores and fare better over all during their teen years.  Learning music as a kid is completely different from learning it as an adult.  And it does build connections in the brain that otherwise will not be formed.  
  • Support Aides -- Depending on the level of support, they have been reduced or eliminated.  What does that mean for actual kids?  It simply means that instead of being in a group with kids who are at a similar reading level, they will have to either keep up with the middle of the roaders, or pace themselves to put up with the middle of the roaders.  It means there will be more awareness of ability levels inside the classroom.  It means that the teacher will not have as much time to dedicate to kids who aren't getting it, and that she won't have any time to challenge those who already get it and are getting bored.  
  • Classroom sizes -- Even though they are cutting support aides, they are increasing classroom sizes.  In a nutshell, it means more kids per adult.  Most adults know what that means.  And if you don't, why don't you offer to stand in for an afternoon?  
  • Custodial service -- reduced.  This doesn't just mean they won't take out the trash every day.  It means less vacuuming, less bathroom touch up, and will make an impact on the overall environment of the school.  And no, parents can't offer to help out.  It's illegal to have a volunteer take over for a position once filled by a salaried employee.  
  • Field trips -- Although visiting local historical sites and nature preserves have long been an integral part of the curriculum, budget cuts have eradicated them.  We're down to one.  It will be both fun and educational, but we'll be supplementing with home trips.  Assuming our own budget can handle it.  
  • Library time -- This is where it really hurts.  The library is the access point for books read for pleasure, for book reports, for research projects.  In the past, students have been taught how to use the library to look up various topics and led through the process of research and writing a report.  Skills they will use throughout their school years.  But, instead of having a full time media specialist and regular access to the library, there will be one librarian on campus.  Long enough for each class to spend twenty minutes in the library.  Every other week.  So instead of a story and browsing time, they need to file in, choose a book and check out.  And although in the past parents were encouraged to come in and help students choose age appropriate titles...since the district laid off so many media specialists, not only are our librarian's hours limited, she no longer is able to accept volunteer support.  It's just her and a teacher.  Just enough adults to actually check books out.  
  • There are cuts in other areas too.  Kindergarten days have been shortened, scheduling has become creative to try and preserve teacher tenure and benefits.  They need medical care as much as you or I, and they have families to feed.
Usually Back to School night is a happy event for us.  We talk about what to look forward to.  But this year, on top of Bumblebee's issues, we're left feeling unsettled.  Is it going to be a great year?  Sure.  But only if we really work at it.  And yes, the Budget Cuts show.  Maybe the one good thing is that tomorrow's voters are the ones learning from experience how important their education is, and how easily it can be affected by little things like budget issues. 

1 comment:

River Glorious said...

They sure do... But public school where I live was not an option. For two years I had to home school my boys, then they went back to private school, and Son #1 asked to be placed back into home schooling. I warned him it was harder than private school, but he accepted and graduated with straight A's.

Just wanted to share my experience, a little.