Wednesday, November 17, 2010

4J School Board Budget Blues

Back from a school board meeting. Eugene's school district, 4J, faces a 2011-12 budget shortfall of 27-38 million dollars. The superintendent is making a bunch of proposals in order to stay within funding.

Tonight's meeting was for community input. I only have observations.

  • I wonder how the 4J district could normalize the district's revenue stream -- it looks like 75% of the district's income comes from state and federal sources it has little control over.

  • Most Eugene parents would like the teacher to student ratio to be somewhere around 1:18 to facilitate teacher workload and to enable a student to have some individual tailoring of a curriculum to learning-style.

  • My feeling, based on parent comments about K-8 schools is that most parents want a school size of roughly... 20 students X 3 classes X 9 grades = 540 students in order to preserve accountability in student interactions (i.e. they want community control to keep the 8th graders from bullying or dealing drugs to the kindergartners).

  • Every school in Eugene is a niche school. Add to this that most Eugene parents feel entitled to school choice and can be cultish about the school they're in. This turns arguing about which schools to save and which ones to axe into arguing whether to be shot or hung.

  • The school board was asking for input on dealing with the budget, and got appeals to save or target specific schools. It was like watching penguins jostle each other over leopard-seal infested waters. To be fair, it seems to me (looking at the list of school closures) that folks were asking "Why are you targeting my school?" because the school board hadn't made it clear that they're targeting old or small buildings and moving the kids into newer or larger buildings to save money. At least I think that's the logic behind the closures.

  • Nobody spoke about proposed furlough days and reduced class year. Wow. Just wait until unsupervised kids are hanging out at the bus terminal and downtown library because there is no school and mom and dad are working.

No easy answers. And I wonder what all the home school folks think about this.
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