Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Opinion On EGUSD's Proposed Budget Cuts

Elk Grove Unified School District Board of Education Member Pollyanna Cooper-LeVangie has a frightening prediction on the future of funding schools locally.

“We are facing cuts that are very undesirable and frankly will change the quality educational program we are accustomed to in Elk Grove,” she wrote in an email to the Citizen recently.

The latest figures out of the Robert Trigg Building predict a $39 million shortfall in revenue for the next academic year here in Elk Grove. Cooper-LeVangie and other members of the Board must submit a balanced budget for 2010-2011 to the County Office of Education by the end of the month.

That's likely to be voted on Nov. 17.

The most noise being made about proposed cutbacks has come from the sports community. They are being faced with about $800,000 less for athletics. A committee of administrators, athletic directors and coaches have determined that it would be better to cutout freshman sports, varsity swimming, water polo, golf and boys' volleyball along with junior varsity soccer, wrestling and track and field rather than doing an across-the-board slice on every sport. Plus, transportation and security costs would be limited at each high school, along with the elimination of one assistant athletic director position at every location.

To try to alleviate some of these cuts, a voluntary “Athletic Contribution” program has been proposed. EGUSD officials admit details need to be worked out, but the idea is that each participant would be asked to pay about $125 per sport per year. California Ed Code won't allow the “pay to play” arrangement to be mandatory for participation in athletics or any activity. Thus, a parent may refuse to pay, yet insist their child play for their school.

If there's full participation in the “Athletic Contribution” program, EGUSD could realize more than $600,000 in revenue.

Several booster clubs have already gone to work, most notably in swimming and water polo, to bring money to the District and make it hard for officials to drop their sport. Local golfers even obtained a reported $35,000 donation from Senior PGA Tour member Loren Roberts to keep that sport alive in Elk Grove high schools.

One local athletic director told the Citizen that former Elk Grove High School and Olympic soccer player Stephanie Lopez-Cox is working to raise funds to keep junior varsity soccer.

But, educators around Elk Grove are frankly more concerned about the future of the staffing of their schools than their sports.

Perhaps rightly so.

In order to save the other $38 million needed for next school year, EGUSD staff has proposed to the Board the elimination of 24 vice principals, virtually all school counselors and all the librarians. Also there would be no bus transportation provided for middle and high school students.
When it comes to school discipline, teachers rely on the vice principals to wield the heavy hand on the malcontents. And to avoid further disruption in the classroom, those same students are generally sent to counselors for intervention sessions.

It's these staff members most responsible for keeping the peace at the local school. Teachers already bear much responsibility in running a classroom and preparing the curriculum. Having to deal with a discipline problem is a huge distraction and can completely disrupt the best lesson plans. Those who suffer the most when discipline problems occur are the students that really want to learn.

The school librarian is the one who maintains an important place in the school where learning is key, the place where there are the resources of information available to all students. It's generally a job at a school that goes unnoticed, yet is so important for learning.

Whereas parents of athletes have a right to be impassioned about the prospect that their child's interscholastic sport may be dropped, the proposed loss of these other key parts to the fabric of a local school may deteriorate the quality of education in Elk Grove to a much greater degree.

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