Thursday, April 18, 2013

Budget Forums: Three Down, One to Go

The school board is holding budget forums, open to all. I went to the Clague budget forum. I got a report on the Slauson forum. There was one this week at the library that I haven't heard about, and the last one is on Saturday 4/20/13, 9-11 a.m., Scarlett Middle School. If you haven't gone yet,
think about going to this one!

Both at Clague and at Slauson, common discussion items included:

1) The importance of keeping class sizes from getting larger;

2) The importance of keeping Community and Roberto Clemente. Especially there was discussion about Roberto Clemente, and I'm quoting from a comment I got on this recent blog post:
I attended the budget forum at Slauson last week, and quite a few people spoke about some issues related to moving the Clemente program into Pioneer. One of them is the use separate entrance idea raising specters of "separate but equal" segregation. Another is the fact that the wing they are proposing to use is already used, so those classes will be displaced, increasing class sizes at Pioneer and/or eliminating some electives. All these people thought Clemente was valuable but that Pioneer was not the best location. 
Interestingly (in light of the critique of central admin arising from your superintendant survey), the board members seemed completely taken off guard by these critiques. It seems they had accepted the building evaluation report at face value, but nobody had bothered to talk to Pioneer staff to see if that vision met up with lived reality.
Back to your analysis: the thing that strikes me about the "off the bus routes" component of the vision is that Pioneer seems the worst location to achieve that goal! You can ditch school and walk to all sorts of 'interesting' places from there, and catch numerous buses. Skyline, on the other hand (which was being offered as a better alternative b/c of less overcrowding) is relatively isolated. Isn't the only bus that serves it, the special bus (18A?) that goes out there because students need transportation? Even Huron is more isolated than Pioneer. 
3) A few people brought up the importance of maintaining transportation services, particularly for low-income kids. For instance, without bus service, how would kids get from Carrot Way (north side) or Scio Farms (west side) to school?

4) Appreciation for the teachers and other staff that agreed to compensation reductions.

5) Revenues: The board members spent far too much time, in my opinion, discussing the AAPS Educational Foundation. (That's a topic for another blog post.)

But other possibilities discussed included:

6) a county-wide enhancement millage. One failed last time (although it passed in Ann Arbor, it did not pass county-wide.

7) at the Clague discussion someone brought up the possibility of a recreation millage. That could be just proposed in Ann Arbor. Saline has one.

Well, neither of those millages will be passed in time for this year's budget.

As far as cuts go, things I heard (and remember--it's been a couple of weeks) were:
--go back through past years' suggestions
--take a look at cuts other districts have made to see if they would be appropriate for us; why reinvent the wheel?
--cut administration
--engage principals and teachers in their ideas for cuts
--cut testing

There also was some discussion of whether Ann Arbor gives "extra" special education services (beyond the minimum required) and should reduce them to save money. I don't have any kids with IEPs, but parents who do, I suggest that you weigh in on this!

I felt a big piece of the discussion is this: what are you willing to give up to protect class sizes and transportation?

Does anyone want to write in the comments what was discussed at the library meeting?
Do go on Saturday to share your ideas.


  1. Whomever made those comments about Special Education clearly does not know anything about the law. The entire process of determining special education services is laid out in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is laid out once an eligibility determination has been made. A team made up of educators, service professionals such as a speech therapist or occupational therapist, social worker, administrator, and the student's parents look at the student's current levels of performance, their strengths and weaknesses, and nature of the disability to set education related goals and objectives for the coming year. Then the services needed are determined from those goals. A child is required to receive an appropriate education as their peers receive, and the cost of the services cannot be considered in providing this. Because if it were, kids with disabilities wouldn't be educated. That is what used to happen before 1975 when the law was first passed. However, "appropriate" does not mean best or gold- plated or most expensive, it means adequate to achieve the student's goals and include them in regular Ed with their peers to the fullest extent possible. So special education is not an area you can cut just to save money. It's important people understand that.

  2. The recreation millage was mentioned at the Slauson forum as well. There was also an interesting (and relatively lengthy) discussion of the previous county-wide millage, and what forces might have contributed to its failure, because the person who ran the effort was there.

    For what its worth, Carrot Way has AATA bus coverage. Not that it would be convenient for kids, but it is there. I don't think that is true of Scio Farms (since it is far outside the city limits).

    I also think that anybody who wants to stop bus service should hang out on W Washington from 7:50 to 8:10 and see how Slauson-dropoff-drivers behave, and then imagine 4x as many drivers... (The buses are on 8th, so this is not a car-bus conflict issue.) Also see how far traffic backs up onto Miller from Ann Arbor Open at 2:50 PM. For some reason, many parents lose common sense and courtesy within 200 yards of a school!

  3. My son has an IEP and gets extra support, although less than when he was younger. Special education helps all the students; if there is an aide provided, the aide is there not only for the student with the IEP but for the other students as well. You can't cut budgets on the backs of the most vulnerable.

  4. One other important point about the special education budget, because we had passed a special education millage in Washtenaw county, we get our special education expenses reimbursed by the county, state and Feds at a high rate, it varies by year but it is around 70% or so. It is a much higher rate than most other counties. But it also means if you did cut special education, you only save 30 cents for every $ cut.

  5. Special Education services are federally mandated and complex. Uneducated comments regarding cutting special education services from the General Fund are misleading and perpetuate negative social stigmas about having a disability. Facts regarding Special Education funding can be found by doing some simple research.