I went to the most horrible silent auction tonight. It was at the school where I teach. All types of folks were invited to the auction; not just the school staff types.
Before the auction started, we were read the things that an elementary school is supposed to BE in order to accomplish what it must do; educate. (I could wax dogmatic and talk about the future of our nation, the hearts and lives of precious children...)
We were then given a bidding sheet. On the sheet were services/programs that the elementary school department of USD 259 currently provides. On that list:
* 5-day school week
* All-day Kindergarten
* Alternative Education (think behavior disorder programs)
* Assistant principals
* Class size (research shows that small class size is profoundly and directly linked to achievement)
* Field Trips
* Foreign Language
* Learning coaches
* Magnet schools
* Music (orchestra)
* Music (vocal)
* Parent Involvement Workers
* Professional development
* Professional Learning Communities
* School building budget (classroom supplies, equipment, etc.)
* Social Worker
* Summer programs (enrichment, latchkey)
* Team time
* Transportation (includes any district bussing)
For our bids, each person was given fifteen red dots. We were asked to decide which of these positions and services we value the most. Chart paper with each of the categories above was placed at the front of the room.
You see, the state of Kansas has a budget shortfall. Its checks to fund schools are running late to districts around Kansas. During the middle of this school year, several million dollars in current-year budget money was taken away. (Around $13M?) From USD 259 alone, further projected cuts for the 2010-2011 school year are about $25M.
I learned today that cuts of that magnitude mean that USD 259 could take all of the monies used for salary from unrestricted funds, from administration all the way down… and still not be able to cover what the state is asking of USD 259 alone (and all districts are affected) to make up its deficit.
At our auction, we had the opportunity to voice our values. We took each of our fifteen stickers, and placed them on the programs and services that we think most essential… the ones that if they WERE cut, would hurt kids the most.
I appreciate the way USD 259 has been handling these choices; at multiple times and in multiple places, the district is providing opportunities for all in the community to provide input into what matters most about schools. These meetings will happen at every school across the district. The data will be compiled, and it will give USD 259 another avenue to get an idea of what the community values most about schools.
I am the least political of all God’s creatures… True story! I felt that this was one opportunity to give input that I knew I could not miss. My heart felt like lead as I made my bids… and left some things behind.
Education is the profession that creates all others.
Please educate yourself, and let your voice be heard.