Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday Morning Quarterbacking the School Board Budgets

I would like to encourage everyone up and down the Valley to stroll in to their local School Board Office and take a big wiff, cause you are gonna smell the greatest scent in the world: Money.

All this week throughout the Valley cities and counties alike will be releasing their projected 06'-07' budgets, and just look at all that extra dough. There's no mistaking, last year was educations big year. Additional state and federal funding, one-time injections, and a booming economy boasting record state and local sales tax revenues, have all combined to form record surpluses in the local SB budgets. You would think.

Yet, early indications appear all this Commonwealth's good fortune may not go to good use. Localities aren't looking to the future, but instead they're looking to make up for the past. I urge our readers in the Valley to pay close attention to these budgets once they become public. You may find upwards of 80 new hires for a single school district, teacher salary increases very close to double-digits, along with numerous infrastructure improvements, among many, many other new and increasing expenditures.

Although most of these will be duly justified by your local School Board members, remember the real buck stops with your local BOS or City Councils. There is a big difference between what the School Boards may deem necessary and what your local governing authority finds to be excess.

Here's a link on Frederick Counties 06-07' budget. Notice the increase of $15.1M. A couple lines down you'll see a projected increase of 564 students. That's $26,773 per new student. (FYI the State average is around $8,000/student). No wonder folks are moving to the area in droves.

Virginia, politically nor financially, can afford to go through the extreme measures and arm-twisting that it did a year ago, nor can public education depend upon the Commonwealth's booming economy to get it out of crisis again a year or two down the road. I (for what it's worth) urge local School Boards to show some bit of restrain this upcoming fiscal year, realizing that its greatest challenges both from a financial and educational point of view still lie ahead.


At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. The more, more, more mantra we get every year from our local school systems is getting old.

It’s been proven over and over that there is no correlation between spending and achievement. The issue I have with public school spending is that most of the money is not spent in the classroom. It’s spent on salaries, benefits, buildings, and almost everything except the classroom.

That said, I also believe that people who enter the teaching profession do so knowing that it’s not the highest paying job in society (not yet, anyway). Rather than focus on what they don’t have, perhaps now is a good time to think about what they do have – job security, a good retirement, and great benefits. Three things most people in society struggle to maintain.

I would also like to add that our teaching “shortage” is largely do to requirements that are out of sync with what the job pays. Most people who have a Master’s Degree in a particular area are still not qualified to teach in a public school system. But, in most cases could teach a class at a college or university.

In order to correct the shortage we need to make it easier for individuals to become teachers. We also need to recruit people who have life experience (with degrees, of course). They could be people who have spent 25-30 years in a particular field who have retired but still want something to do besides be a Wal-Mart greeter. By attracting older teachers we also lessen the burden on the retirement system in the long run.

There will always be good teachers and there will always be bad teachers. The bad ones who are teaching today got there by meeting the current requirements that are in place. I see no reason at all to be afraid of lowering or adjusting the requirements and giving other “professionals” a shot in the classroom so long as there is a proper mechanism in place to remove the bad apples, of course.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger GOPHokie said...

Great post. It would be wonderful if out school boards would use restraint, but I am doubting it will happen.
Another problem with the teaching requirements is the entrance exam. I had a family friend who wanted to be a music teacher but couldnt get certified b/c the test was on teaching math and science.
As a result she had to move to TN to get a job.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Mr. Brightside said...

Anon: Nice comment and great suggestions.

I agree with every bit of it. Unfortunately its the 'what have you done for me lately?' mindset of both teachers and the public that halts sensible ideas (like all those you mention) and instead breeds soundbites and quick-fixes that become synonomous with SB Budget proposals.

As if SB's haven't caught on to the game. Ask for 80 new teachers, receive 40. Ask for 10 new buses, receive 5. So when they want $15M more over the previous year- how much do they really need? $7.5M

Then what do you hear when only half of the funding requested is awarded?:
-Kids are going to go without lunch.
-No music, arts, gym, or history
-No sex ed. or drug awareness classes
-Huge classroom sizes.
-No field trips, longer bus rides, and no after-school programs, etc., etc.

You'll never hear that the contract for the Co-Assistant Vice-Principals Aide for only the Seventh Grade will not be renewed. -Or- That the system has decided to hold off funding for landscaping and other beautification iniatives for just one year, oh no.

Again, great insight on all points, and very well thought out solutions. I couldn't agree more. Thanks for posting!

At 4:41 PM, Blogger ED Skywalker said...

Anonymous writes a great post and puts out some great ideas. I think the best idea has to be having former professionals/retirees coming into the classroom and teaching students.

However, I don't think that you need a Master degree to be a teacher at a public school. I think these are the necessary requirements to be a teacher in VA unless they've changed, Routes to Licensure in Virginia.

The best idea anonymous puts out is having former professional/retirees coming into the classroom and teaching. Someone with real world experience who understands having to produce results, and who can convey this understanding through their teaching. Although, I’m not sure how real world experience teaching would conform to the constraints that come with today’s standardized tests.

One of the shortages they are having is finding foreign language teachers. I’m not sure if they already have programs like this, but they could have foreign graduate students or recent graduates come over to the US and teach for a year or two. I know American students do this all the time in countries like China, Vietnam, etc. The pay would probably be pretty minimal, not to mention the upside of having someone teaching their primary language instead of having students learning French with a West Virginia accent. Not to mention the great experience it would be for the teachers, I mean what person wouldn’t want to go from a university in Paris, France, to teaching a tiny high school in Paris, VA?

Why stop with languages, the stereotype has always been that Asians far better at math and science than Americans. Why not try and set up a program where young college graduates and grad students that have an expertise in these subjects come over an teach for a year or two.

The trend has been to outsource jobs to foreign countries to save money. Well, why not insource jobs to foreigners in order to save money. I mean it has worked for the fruit pickers, landscapers, and house keepers, why not education too?

At 5:10 PM, Blogger GOPHokie said...

With the new no child left behind legislation you essentially need a masters to teach.
You at least take a 5 year program of studies in college for it.

At 5:29 PM, Anonymous suomynonA said...

That same standard GOPHokie refers to even includes special education teachers. Talk about a 'shortage'.

I know several teachers in Northern Virginia who work in special education, yet are not 'certified' to do so within this state. Thus, at the beginning of each new school year a letter, stating that the individual working with your child is 'uncertified'. The parent this has the opportunity to opt-out of that teachers class-room for another one who is certified. The rate at which parents do opt-out is minimal, which speaks volumes. They're simply happy there are good folks out there in the world who are patient enough and willing enough to teach what has to be the most challenging students in the system.

I can't beleive no one has made the comparison between Virginia's Standards of Learning and the No Child Left Behind Act. Virginia holds a much higher standard, which is the reason many of our fed. legislatures are asking for an exception for states that already excede NCLB.

Anon: 9:33am- Good post.


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