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Public School Budget Woes for Families, As Test Publisher Makes Out Like a Bandit

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Public School Budget Woes for Families, As Test Publisher

Makes Out Like a Bandit

By Linda Dobson

As anyone who has toiled over a budget knows, it’s really all about priorities. One must find money for purchases essential to the goal (typically survival when dealing with a family budget), which most often means doing without those things that don’t serve the goal.

Budget woes

All the low-hanging fruit is gone.

As public (hereafter called by their real name, government) schools take a knife to budgets across the country, that which falls to the chopping block is becoming clearer. So far, the reports indicate a whole new passel of troubles for families, families who might soon look back on the last few years as “the good old days.”

“It’s becoming more uncommon to find a district without financial problems now, said John D. Musso, the executive director of the Association of School Business Officials International, based in Reston, Va. “All the low-hanging fruit is gone. … [Y]ou talk about the light at the end of the tunnel, but I don’t think people see the tunnel anymore.” (from the Education Week article referenced below)

Budget Woes in Carroll County, MD

In an ABCNews2 blog post titled “School Schedules Turned Upside Down,” we learn the government schools of the county may cut 40 bus trips to save an estimated $1.2 million.

Some schools would start as early as 7:30am, while others would ring the final bell at four o’clock in the afternoon.

“So that additional 20 minutes… five minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the afternoon… is allowing us to do three runs per bus as opposed to what we currently do—two runs per bus with most of our buses,” said Hardesty.

The plan came about as a result of the superintendent of schools asking all of his departments to try to come up with ways to save money…

…But some elementary schools, like Charles Carroll, would remain open much later than they do now potentially jeopardizing after school activities.

“We are concerned about some students possibly getting home after five at those schools that would end at four o’clock and we’re doing everything we can to try to minimize that,” said Hardesty, “Next year, we’ll being test runs with our bus routes, assuming this proposal is passed, and trying to eliminate those situations.”

Mmm, I wonder if kids who will possibly get home from school after 5 pm will receive a “no homework” pass?

Budget Woes in Orange County, VA

Government school administrators here already have been cutting their budget for years, according to “Budget Cuts Hitting Deeper in Districts Nationwide” at Education Week.

Summer school for kindergartners through 8th graders? Gone. Instrumental-strings program? Cut. Money for replacing school buses? Eliminated, along with a weekly 30-minute program in computer technology for elementary students.

The after-school sports program in the 5,000-student district started requiring fees from students to participate. Parents and students are holding fundraisers to pay for transportation to away games.

“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel currently in Orange County,” said Mr. Grimesey, whose district is in the north-central part of the state.

Budget Woes in Suburban St. Louis, MO

From the same Education Week article we learn of the most drastic change in bus schedules – it’s gone! That’s right, simply gutted.

But in the 1,600-student Bayless district in suburban St. Louis, the school board voted to eliminate all bus transportation this school year, in a move expected to save $250,000. Missouri requires districts to provide transportation to students who live more than 3 ½ miles from school, and all of the district’s students live within that radius, the district says.

I’d really hate to be that family that lives on that 3 1/2 mile line, wouldn’t you? Surely no parent is going to send a kindergartner out to walk 3 1/2 miles to school!

Budget Woes in Duval County, FL

From the same article:

In Duval County, Fla., the school board chairman touched off an uproar—and a national debate about the worth of school sports—when he said that the 123,500-student district might have to eliminate all school sports next year to plug a budget hole. The district is facing a possible $97 million shortfall, out of a total operating budget of about $1 billion for the next budget year, and has had cuts for the past four years. Cutting interscholastic sports would save about $6 million, school board Chairman W.C. Gentry told The Florida Times-Union, in Jacksonville. The board has made no final decision on the cuts.

Budget Woes in Sioux Falls, SD

Again from Education Week, this government school district is short $7 million from its $130 million budget.

One program possibly on the chopping block: a transition program for 9th graders at one high school. It may go because it’s not in all the high schools, Ms. Homan said. An elementary reading-intervention program could also be under consideration for cuts.

Budget Woes in San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh, who oversees his district’s policy and operations departments, said that the city put together a budget that would shave $113 million over two years from a budget that is currently $490 million. Like many other California districts, San Francisco has cut its school year to 176 days, from 180. The 56,000-student system has also halved professional development for teachers, from six days to three days per school year.

“We still have reduced class sizes at the K-3 level, but that’s something that might be on the table,” Mr. Leigh said.

So What about the Test Publisher’s Budget?

To answer this question, all we have to do is visit a couple of blog posts. First, it’s Burnt Orange Report to read”Cost of Standardized Testing in Texas Increases Ten-Fold” by Philip Martin, where we learn “State’s demands forced school costs to shoot up.”

Schools are preparing to give a new test next year, the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, which the Texas Education Agency has promised “will be significantly more rigorous than previous tests.” And let’s not forget that, led by our last governor, the federal government created an additional set of accountability measures for schools to meet during the past 10 years.

The increasing demands on students have put more demands on teachers and principals, particularly considering the state’s heavy emphasis on standardized testing to judge schools.

Districts across the state have therefore decided to hire instructional coordinators, curriculum specialists and others to give students extra attention and to help teachers make sure their lessons help students meet the escalating expectations…

When added up, taxpayers will pay about $93 million this year to administer standardized tests to Texas students, Zyskowski says, or nearly ten times the cost of just nine years earlier.

I know, we still haven’t answered the big question yet. But we will with Huffington Post’s Teaching to the Test” by Randy Turner. The piece is about teacher Randy’s conversation with a student’s mother regarding  – what else? – her son’s tests, well, actually, one of the pre-tests to the tests, to be exact.

Don’t worry about it, I wanted to tell her. The ACUITY is just a tool to help determine what we need to do to excel on the annual Missouri Assessment Program tests (MAP). We interrupt regular classes seven times a year to give these practice standardized tests, which are created by the textbook and testing company McGraw-Hill, the same outfit that publishes the MAP.

In addition to the seven tests, we take practice tests to make sure we do well on the practice tests and we use ACUITY information to determine what students should go into a guided study program, which also uses ACUITY preparation materials.

To make sure our schools do well on the practice tests, for the practice tests, for the standardized tests, we aligned our curriculum to go with ACUITY.

So now we teach toward the practice test, for the practice tests, for the standardized tests.

Such is the state of modern education and the “success” of this portion of it can be partially laid at the doorstep of Harold McGraw III, chairman, president, and CEO of McGraw-Hill.

Your patience has been rewarded. As a result of this test-craze-bizarro-world, it’s Harold McGraw III, “the man who has done so much to take the learning out of public education,” says Randy, who makes out like a bandit!

According to a proxy statement filed with the SEC Friday, McGraw’s 2010 pay package totaled $9,591,916, an increase of $2.4 million over his 2009 take-home pay.

The company’s other three top officials earned $3.9 million, $2.5 million, and $2.2 million, respectively.

While the teachers at my school, most of whom make in the neighborhood of $35,000 a year, are taking a sizable hit from the high gas prices, McGraw does not have to worry about such problems.

According to the proxy statement, he is required to take the company plane everywhere for security purposes and can even use it free of charge for personal travel, unless, of course, he exceeds $200,000 a year. At that point, the company gets strict and makes him pay it back.

And at a time when teachers all across the United States worry about losing their jobs or their hard-earned tenure, McGraw also has to worry about what will happen if his board ever decides that he, too, needs to have his tenure brought to an end. If he is fired, he will receive $2,921,095, the proxy statement indicates. If his removal comes because of a sale of the company, that amount climbs to $5,812,290, and either way, McGraw picks up $2,433,938 in stock options.

Test budget woesRemember I started off this post by saying that when one needs to budget, one focuses on maintaining those purchases to achieve a goal, and get rid of the rest. Why is it, then, when schools cut a budget, they are getting rid of teachers, classes, sports, and making some children walk (or need a ride) three miles? This would not happen if the education of children was their goal.

Instead, one of  just many test publishers is getting incredibly rich on testing that does NOTHING to educate children. And the powers-that-be are working hard to put even more stock in this exercise that requires children to become good bubble-fillers-with-pencil in lieu of educating them.

As a parent, you have a voice. It it way past time to have it heard. Many parents are standing up to this insanity and refusing to let their children participate, as revealed in “Standardized Testing Opt Out.”

Others are participating in “The Bartleby Project” as outlined in the video at the link. It’s very very simple. Your child merely writes, “I prefer not to take this test” at the top of the test and he is done. If just five percent of American kids refuse to participate in this manner, it will get the attention of those who pay the obscene sums as witnessed by the figure for Texas.

It’s time to realize that you, as parent, are the only one who holds your child’s education as a top priority. It’s time to realize that school is not the place for your child to receive an education. If you begin to homeschool I promise you there will be many experienced homeschoolers near you very willing to help you get started.

Please consider getting your children out before the incredible shrinking budget parade comes to your town, too.

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Reader Feedback

2 Responses to “Public School Budget Woes for Families, As Test Publisher Makes Out Like a Bandit”

  1. Dan says:

    This is a cause I can get behind. Why not opt out of government schools all together?

  2. Homeschool Mom says:

    Have you followed the link to the bartleby project? Do you honestly think this is the answer when these kids (public students) NEED some of these tests to graduate? I love homeschooling, but come on… can't we find some other form of pro-activism

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