Wednesday, May 29, 2013

AAPS Budget Question: Paying for a Seventh Period?

One of the possibilities on the budget cutting table is the elimination of the ability for students to take seven classes in a semester, the elimination of "seventh hour." According to district budget documents, this is anticipated to save $500,000.

A second option would allow students to take a seventh hour for tuition. The state only requires that six hours be offered, and many districts have already cut their seventh hours.

The music departments are already crying foul about this. The Pioneer music department released these statistics:

In 2012-2013:
36% of Pioneer Band students take a 7th hour out of necessity to get all of their credits in. 
46% of Pioneer Orchestra students take a 7th hour out of necessity to get all of their credits in. 
47% Pioneer Choir students take a 7th hour out of necessity to get all of the credits in. 
This is 43% of the total music department. 

So, o.k., it is clear this would disproportionately affect the music departments. It would also affect students in career/vocational education, those taking lots of AP classes...

There is also a proposal to switch Skyline from trimesters to semesters, and an alternate proposal to allow Skyline to keep trimesters but make reductions that would save a similar amount of money. 

All of which led me to the following questions. 

1. If students at Pioneer and Huron (and Community) need to pay for a seventh hour option, will it be free to students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch?

Something like 15% of our high school students currently qualify for free/reduced price lunch. Obviously, if you charge tuition and you don't waive the price for students with FRPL, then poorer kids are going to get fewer opportunities than richer kids. On the other hand, if you do waive the price for students with FRPL, then that would have a budget impact. Right?

2. If the "seventh hour tuition" goes into effect [or if seventh hour is simply cut], but Skyline stays with the trimester system, will students at Skyline need to pay for [or be able to access at all] their fifth hour? Because  
4 periods/trimester at Skyline = 12 periods (six credits) and 
6 periods/semester at the other schools=12 periods (six credits).

This seems obvious, but I think we'd have a mass protest if families at Skyline were told they could only have four hours/term (or have to pay for a fifth hour). It might seem like a credit is a credit is a credit, but because of the trimester system, many students at Skyline use three trimesters (1.5 credits) for the same class of. . . math, music, or AP classes. . . that take two semesters (1.0 credits) at Pioneer or Huron or Community. So any decision to cut credit hours at Skyline would probably affect more students than at the other schools. In fact, with only four hours a trimester, I'm not sure that most students could meet their basic requirements. On the other hand, I would think that if Skyline students get 15 hours/year and the other students only get 12 hours/year, the students (and families) who only get 12 hours/year would be rightfully pissed off.

So, anyway, I put these questions to the AAPS Director of Communications, and this is her answer: 

Ruth. We are not able to answer either of these questions. No decision has been made regarding 7th hour by the Board. We are still working on the 7th class for fee scenario. 


It's unclear to me whose job it is to "play out" various scenarios, but it doesn't seem like it should be left to me, ruminating while I'm out for an evening walk.

I'm not sure how they could make a decision on seventh hour without considering these questions, especially given that they will have budget impacts.  And that, of course, makes me wonder: what assumptions were embedded in that projected $500,000 in savings? Where did that number come from?


  1. Ruth, I think how I responded was clear. We are discussing different scenarios for a 7th class for students. The 7th class for fee recently came as a question from the Board. We are researching both legal ramifications and what appropriate charges could possibly be as well as how free and reduced lunch eligible students are considered in these scenarios.
    Liz Margolis

  2. Liz, the second question, about the implications for Skyline in the case where they are allowed to keep trimesters is also not addressed.

  3. A decision has not yet been made by the Board on the trimester/semester at Skyline. As part of the 7th class and trimester procedures and ramifications we are considering and planning for all possible outcomes. When the final decision is made we will be able to be clear on all implications.

  4. Sure, but--the way that people (as in: parents, students, and teachers) at Skyline feel about trimesters is very likely to be influenced by any decisions about whether there are 5th or 7th hour cuts, and the district failing to play out those options for people makes it difficult for concerned individuals to weigh in.

    Similarly, some people might feel ok about tuition-required seventh hour IF there was a waiver for kids with free/reduced price lunch, and not ok about it if there was not.

  5. I don't think paying for 7th hour is a great idea. It's public school after all, and this is about managing the money in house, not levying a tax on kids who like music or choir.
    Which gets us back to the problem at hand currently, Quad A. They are up to bat, and somehow, after I read Christine Stead's output on, I have been left with the impression that the options are principals sharing vs paycuts. I think there's always more options, then either this or that, when negotiating. I believe strongly that every school should have it's own principal, because at the very least,misunderstanding arise easily, at the worst, there's nothing but fingerpointing when something goes wrong, and the principal was not in the building to manage a problem at the time. Perhaps, negotiating more accountability to each principal's performance will help the situation.

  6. I don't see how paying for 7th hour could possibly work. How would they know ahead of time whether enough students would pay to make it a go? This is a registration nightmare. If 5 students sign up is there a class? This is not going to work.

  7. Anon, those are good questions. I'm pretty sure that the intent would be to continue to offer seven periods in which classes could be scheduled, so someone's "seventh hour" might actually be during a second period class, and someone who preferred to sleep in could have classes 2nd-7th period. But I'm not sure about that.

    And also--you raise a really good question about how families would be billed for, and would pay for, classes. What happens if someone can't pay all at once? Is there a payment plan? What if they miss payments? Does a child halfway through a class get dropped or will they be failed because of a parent's failure to pay? Who will do the billing and collecting? Has that been identified? (I know for Rec and Ed they have dedicated staff that have to do the billing etc., but the penalty is that a child can't be enrolled in child care, not that they get dropped from band halfway through the semester.)

  8. FYI, email from the principal at Pioneer yesterday:

    The AAPS District is currently reviewing multiple scheduling scenarios for the upcoming school year. One scenario is for the elimination of 7 classes. Students who have requested 7 classes for the upcoming Fall semester will be asked to meet with their Counselors to determine which course would be dropped if the decision is made for only 6 classes.