Sunday, February 13, 2011

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."

- Derek Bok (former President, Harvard University)

That the current budget "crisis" that our District (and most districts) face will inevitably result in massive and painful cuts goes without saying.
As has been eloquently (and accurately) detailed in the Budget Forums over the course of the past three budget cycles virtually all of the "fat" that could be cut - has been cut. Without significant changes in burdensome unfunded mandates or a major change in state reimbursement formulas closing the budget gap comes down to only three alternatives (or a combination of the three).

  1. Additional cuts, on top of those already imposed, which will affect the quality of our children's education
  2. Increase revenues
  3. Increase taxes
The long term "fix" simply MUST be a major overhaul of the entire structure currently in place wherein the Legislature and SED mandate state-wide costly programs but fail to fund them thus placing the financial burden on local taxpayers.
The problem is further compounded by the numerous inequities present in the property tax based and school budget voting process.
That the process is "broken" beyond repair seems more obvious every day.
While from the point of view of pure "democracy"  it would be a wonderful thing if the electorate voted directly on the imposition of every tax, the simple fact of the matter is that we get to vote on no other.
Over the years all types of "band aids" have been applied in an attempt to "fix" the unfix-able.
STAR, 100% assessment, community budget forums, and "budget think tanks" (where a small number of people, many with their own "agendas" manage to unduly influence the process) have all proven incapable of averting the current crisis most districts in the state find themselves in.
Scrapping the current system and replacing it with an alternative method of funding public education, while a laudable and necessary goal, isn't likely to occur anytime soon. Nor will it change the fact that providing our kids with a truly "world class" educational system simply isn't "cheap" and will have to be funded.

One need only look at the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence which demonstrates beyond question that we are failing miserably as a state and a nation by comparison to the rest of the world (including many countries we would otherwise consider "under developed".)

While the reasons for our shameful performance on the world educational stage are many and varied there can be no question that closing schools, cutting teaching staffs, and increasing class sizes simply in the interest of limiting tax increases to an arbitrary percentage (as opposed to an educationally sound reason) contributes mightily.

Based on preliminary estimates, closing one elementary school (read "Clarksville") and terminating ~40 teachers will result in class sizes increasing from ~22 (which is also the state-wide average) to 28-30.

While it's fashionable in some circles these days to argue the "run it like a business" and "what harm can a couple more kids in each class do" ask any elementary teacher you respect or anyone who has spent time in a classroom what effect the addition of just one or two kids can have.

Some point to "research" which purports to refute the obvious negative (and life-long) effect such a massive increase in class size will have on YOUR CHILD.

As most thinking individuals are painfully aware one can produce "research" that supports any given point of view. Are eggs and butter good for you (this week, not happy with the resulting "research"? - wait a week).

This is not to disparage or paint with a broad brush ALL "research" - certainly much (maybe even "most") is conducted by intellectually honest researchers interested only in finding the truth and coming to the task with no predetermined "agenda". Unfortunately, such is not always the case and much of the "research" currently being bandied about to support the "class size doesn't matter" argument is indeed promulgated by those with an "agenda".

While the following article is written by an individual who comes to the discussion with an "agenda" of her own her conclusions are well documented and provided here in an attempt to foster the discussion and allow each of us to decide if perhaps Derek Bok had a point.
The link is here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has the phone survey been published online? Is there a link? Thank you!

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