Maggie Makes Four!

This journal started off documenting the adoption of our youngest daughter. It now follows the twist and turns of our lives as we raise these two amazing little creatures into the best women they can become.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A rant: Solving the Budget Crisis

I've held my tongue on an issue in California for quite a while and I can remain silent no more.  As many of you know, both of my kids go to public schools and therefore, are impacted by the budget crisis in our state.  

My children attend schools that are ranked in the top ten of the State (specifically, we're number 7).  These schools boast high test scores, committed teachers, involved parents and bright students.  No wonder they rank so highly.  Yet, like every other school in the state, budget cuts threatens to increase class sizes and reduce janitorial services.  Library aides, reading specialists, counselors all may be cut by fall.  At our school, 17 of 34 teachers were given notices of potential lay-offs (this is just for Dual Immersion, it's more if you include the English Only classes.)  And most amazing, it doesn't have to be this way.  

There is an option on the table that allows schools to maintain 20 kids in every class, keep their janitors, reading specialists and every single teacher.  Yet, it's considered controversial.  The option:  Cut five days off the school year.  Currently the kids go to school from August 25 through mid-June.  They have most of the month of November off (no one really knows why this is, it just is), two weeks in December and a week in Spring. At a recent meeting with our superintendent, he told parents the schools need every single teaching  day to keep our test scores high. Every parent in the room practically shouted "BS" (and I mean the words, not the letters).  

Why?  Well, school may not be dismissed until mid-June, but education ended on May 15 this year and parents knew that would be the case.  See, state testing ends on May 15 and teachers generally take that as the signal to start closing down their classrooms. I mean why work with students if they've already been evaluated?   In La Nina's class, the reading program ended (so the teacher could inventory books and evaluate students), timed math tests ended (not sure why) and home ceased (I'm not complaining.)   In Maggie's class, it's similar plus she's had two field trips since May 1 and has another one coming up.    Today, every 3rd, 4th and 5th grader from our school went to a baseball game, counting pitches is very educational.  Basically, the schools take 5 weeks off, but can't afford to give 5 days back to families.

Now, I'm all for kids going on field trips and having some down time at school.  Homework is ridiculous in 1st grade and kindergarten, so I'm not complaining about that stopping.  Here's my issue:  If you can fix the budget problem in education by losing a week, what's the hold up?  Lose the week and move on.  

But wait, that would mean that our beloved teachers will lose 5 days of pay.  Hmmmm...lose jobs or everyone lose a little bit of income.  Given that many of my neighbors are giving up 10-20% of their income to keep their jobs, why are these people complaining about 5 days?  

And so, even though there is a solution, the only people I know who believe it's a good idea are parents.  Who knows if the governor will have the guts to make the needed changes to make this a reality?  The teachers union will scream to high Heaven.  The teachers will riot in the street about test scores dropping.  Administrators will use the shorter school year as an excuse for everything from increased truancy to childhood obesity.  Yet I truly hope the governor changes the laws and shortens the school year.  With an extra few days, we can get another weekend of family time and that's as valuable as school any day of the week.   


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