And Budget Forums, coming next week, are for our edification!
Ann Arbor Public Schools Budget Forums:
Monday, April 25 at Pioneer High School - Cafeteria Annex, 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 28 at Skyline High School-Commons area, 6:30 p.m.
Also, it is worth noting that the proposed budget cuts are BEFORE any cuts that might occur if the special education renewal millage doesn't pass. Please vote for that county-wide millage on May 3d.
So, anyway, from what I have read there are three large pieces to the budget cuts: cut teaching staff, share principals, and cut high school transportation. The district is estimating a need to cut $15 million.
As far as cuts to teachers go, I think that is no surprise at all. If you have a program that has, as its largest share of expenses, staffing; and if, as in the case of the schools, the largest share of staffing is teachers, then of course teacher cuts will naturally follow major budget reductions. Either that, or teachers will have to volunteer to take cuts. Personally, I think that the cuts in teaching staff and the resulting larger classes are more likely to get parents and others upset sooner, and perhaps advocate for some change at the state level. Also, if I were part of the teachers' union, I wouldn't be in a big hurry to give concessions when a) the teachers gave them last year and b) the new Superintendent is coming in making a whole lotta money.
The second piece, cutting high school transportation, raises a lot of questions--both practical and philosophical. It's true that a lot of high school students don't take the public school buses. So does that make it okay to cut? Philosophical: on the other hand, are we trying to serve the kids who have cars or parents available to drive them, or the have nots? What would it mean if a child literally couldn't get to school? Practical: because my daughter has been taking a Community Resource class after school, she takes one less class during the school day. We live about a ten-minute walk from a public bus stop, and we tried to get her to take the public bus. Day, after day, after day, that bus was 15 minutes late. The idea of taking the public bus system ended up being more idealistic than ideal, and now most days she gets a ride. But we have flexible schedules...
Third--Cutting out principals by having four schools share two principals. I guess that I would ask that question in reverse. If that is a good idea, why don't we do it with all of the schools?! Hmmm. Maybe because it is not such a good idea? Those combined schools are bigger than some of the middle schools, all of which, right now, have a principal and
a superintendent an assistant principal... In fact, those schools are some of the districts' larger schools. Can we look at making different types of cuts among administrators? Cutting assistant principals at the middle schools? Cutting staff in the administrative offices?
Another alternative--The Interim Superintendent went on record in saying that the district couldn't consider closing a school because it would require redistricting. Hmmm. In some cases, that could be true. In others, it wouldn't be. Here are two school closing options to consider that would not require any redistricting at all:
A. Close Stone School, and move that into a wing of another school (say, into Pioneer or Huron). That is an alternative program that could be housed anywhere.B. Close Mitchell School and merge Mitchell School into Scarlett Middle School. This would make sense to me because the district is already trying to start a K-8 Lab School with those two schools together, and Scarlett actually does have room to house all of the Mitchell kids, because Mitchell is one of the smallest schools in the district and Scarlett is the smallest middle school! I also like the idea of having an east side K-8 program; Ann Arbor Open's K-8 program has proven to be very popular.
Come to the forums. Find out more, share your opinions. Share your opinions with the school board as well.