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Schools Closing; Public Ed Iceberg Is Melting

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Yesterday’s Parent at the Helm news round-up titled “Top 50 Education Tech Blogs and More” included a report on a Wall Street Journal article about schools potentially turning to a four-day week in order to salvage jobs while continuing to function on shrinking budgets. As you might expect, many parents consider such a response to budget woes as unthinkable.

A four-day week may be the best government schools have to offer in the near future, however, as the system continues to falter and the incidents of outright school closings are starting to pile up.

Lock

“Public hearings on the plan have been filled with hundreds of parents, students and community members holding signs and chanting in protest.”

Indiana Elementary School Set to Lock Doors to Save Money

On March 15, Superintendent Steve Fisher and the New Castle Community Schools board of trustees (IN) will decide if they will shut the doors on Greenstreet Elementary school, according to a report by Joy Leiker in TheStarPress.com.

“…when the board meets, Fisher and other administrators expect the board to approve his recommendation to close the school, and that concerns parent Dawn Beach.

“I would like to know what is going to happen as soon as possible. That way we can make a decision. Depending on where they put my daughter I am contemplating homeschooling. I have been thinking about homeschooling this past year.”

If the school building is closed, as the Superintendent’s comments suggest, it will re-open in the 2010-2011 school year to house an alternative school currently located elsewhere. Interesting.

This particular article makes no mention of the size of this school district’s budget deficit.

Kansas City, Missouri May Close Half Its Schools

An even more startling move is being considered in Kansas City, Missouri, according to an Associated Press article by Heather Hollingsworth at Boston.com.

“Kansas City was viewed as a national example of bold thinking when it tried to integrate its schools by making them better than the suburban districts where many children were moving…Now it’s on the brink of bankruptcy and considering another bold move: closing nearly half its schools to stay afloat. Officials say the cuts are necessary to keep the district from plowing through what little is left of the $2 billion it received as part of a groundbreaking desegregation case.”

Superintendent John Covington has said, “Diplomas given to many graduates ‘aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.’”

The community is stunned. The schools’ closures are intended to address a $50 million budget deficit, and it includes cutting 700 of 3,000 jobs, to include 285 teachers.

That groundbreaking desegregation case occurred in 1985, when a federal judge ordered the state to spend $2 billion to “boost test scores, integrate the schools, and repair decrepit classrooms.”

A buying spree was underway (which included an indoor track and mock court). Yet $2 billion later, the district never saw the spike in student numbers that they’d hoped for. Indeed, enrollment was 75,000 in the 1960s; 35,000 ten years ago; and is now not quite 18,000. (If my calculator isn’t lying to me, that means there is currently one school for every 295 students. As states typically dole out your tax money to schools based on enrollment, one can see how it’s difficult to pay 3000 employees (that’s one per six students, folks). To put this in perspective, according to 2006-07 U.S. Census figures, the district was spending an average $15,158 per student when the national average was $9,666 per student.

“’That is huge,’ said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. ‘I have not heard of a reduction of that size anywhere else.’”

That may be. Nevertheless, school doors are closing at a rate I never thought I’d witness: “Nationwide public districts are closing schools to better cope with a recession that has eaten away at academic budgets. In Detroit, 29 schools closed before classes began this fall…Washington, D.C., closed 23 of its schools in 2008;” last year it closed three more.

And, as elsewhere, “Public hearings on the plan have been filled with hundreds of parents, students and community members holding signs and chanting in protest.”

I think I might get into the protest sign business. There are going to be a lot more upset parents and students before the effects of this recession are over. When was the last time you reviewed your local school district’s budget?

Homeschooling, anyone?

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