Public School Budget Cuts. What Should a Parent Do?

Last Tuesday evening, a special PTO meeting was called. A representative from our school district came to speak about next year’s budget. Sadly, only 13 parents, including me, showed up.

I knew the budget situation was bad. In December, they cut this year’s budget the first time. It meant cutting back on buying supplies for the rest of the year. So we’ve been receiving monthly newsletters on pink paper, instead of white. No big deal. The next budget cuts happened in March. I believe 5 days were cut from the school year. Three of them were days students attend school.

Next year is worse. Much worse. Next year’s budget for our school district is expected to fall somewhere between 2.9 million and 4.8 million short of the current year’s initial budget (before the December and March cuts). The district representative gave us a picture of what kind of cuts would have to be made to achieve the worse case budget scenario:

  • 47 school days cut OR
  • 80-94 Teachers cut OR
  • 20% of the eligible budget cut (supplies, etc)

We were told that next year they’re looking at a variety of scenarios, including going to a 4 day school week (but keeping the length of the school year), going to a shorter school day, or going to a shorter school year. Regardless of what happens, our district will be below the 180 days required to meet educational standards.

As a parent, I’m not happy about this, obviously. I take issue with a state government that funds education last instead of first, when they meet to discuss the budget. I take issue with a school district that spent it’s buffer down to 2% of the budget, when the recommended buffer is 5-8% of the budget. They banked on the fact that the 2009-2011 biennium was supposed to be a banner year for the school budget. They were wrong, and now the kids will pay the price.

Most importantly, I’m not happy with the education (or lack thereof) that my children would get next year. I know the teachers would do their best. We’ve had extremely good experiences with all the public school teachers my children have had. They go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure my kids get the education they need.

But there comes a point where I worry that even the most brilliant and dedicated teachers can’t make up for increasing class sizes and decreasing school hours. And I’m not sure I want my children to be guinea pigs in such a dismal school situation.

So that leaves me with a dilemma. I have three choices. I can continue to send my children to public school, praying for the best. It goes without saying that I would be involved in their schools. I already am.

I could homeschool. I’d obviously have to work out a schedule to where I could teach school, keep up the house, and keep up this blog (being as my blog pays some of the bills and helps us pay down debt). Fortunately my husband gets home shortly after lunch and could pitch in, if we went this direction.

We could send our kids to private school, if we can work out the finances. It would be difficult, as it would cost about $800 a month for both kids to go to the local Christian school. Again, I’d be involved in the school. But the amount of money spent on school would take a serious bite out of our debt repayment plans, if we can swing it at all.

After much thought and prayer this week, I know which direction I’m leaning, though no firm decisions have been made. My husband is on the same page. But I’m not going to tell you, because I think hashing out the decision makes for a good discussion. :) I promise to let you know when we’ve made a final decision.

What would you do, if you were me? And if you know a public school teacher, tell them you appreciate them. All schools are going through hard times right now, and it’s especially stressful to be a teacher.

Photo by calculatOr.



Author

By , on Apr 27, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{66 Comments}

  1. cynthia wolfe:

    I was just browsing through and read your story about the school budget cut. First, Thank you for praying, because that is exactly what it will take. I am sorry about what is going to happen to the schools because of the cut, that is if it really going to be a cut, the teachers are already not paid near enough. May God help those who do not teach and understand it does not happen over night. You ask what would we do, Years back i was in a similiar situation. So, by the Holy Spirit, I am now homeschooling. Which is all by the faith in the Lord, and Him telling me which way to go. My students are in middle school and high school, which is ran like a college courses. We believe the Lord for what we need each year and He has not fail at suppling the books and materials needed. I will keep your family in prayer concerning this. thanks for putting this story out .

  2. jill:

    Home school your beautiful white children if you care about them. They will be attacked and held back in govt run detention centers (public schools) amren.com for more.

  3. Lee:

    My kids have just completed there first year at Texas Virtual Academy. It is an online charter school that requires them to take all the state mandates tests and state certified teachers. They do all their work online from home, they love it, and have repeatedly told me how much more they are learning than they did in public school.
    I believe Oregon has such a virtual academy as well. http://www.k12.com/orva/

  4. Brad:

    It is a challenge Latasha. I would just encourage you to keep as focused as you personally can. Learn all you can and keep pushing the desire to learn. It may not be easy, but getting ahead in today’s information economy requires that you be continually learning and adapting.

    It can be hard when you see lots of apathy around you, but do what you can to grow past that.

    I used to think money was the problem, but money will never cure the apathy she notes. We really need to reevaluate the idea that someone else (government, schools, whatever) can do the job families must do.

    Brad

  5. Latasha Roberts:

    I am a senior this year and i know that they have recently done the budget cut like last year i think but what people don’t under is it’s always been this way people are just now taking a stand saying something about it. Well here’s something for yall to think about we still have books that are parents had. We have to worst lunch ever. Some of the teachers here don’t even care about teaching us and most the teachers just teach so they can be a coach. The reason so many ppl drop out is cause they feel teachers don’t care so they give up. Ppl act like it’s all the governments fault what about the parents most them don’t even help there kids so yea

  6. Tisha:

    Regarding the “private schools do not receive the $5,500 per student from the state” comment from above: In our school district we have received the same amount of money from the state of Ohio for the last 6 years, despite the fact that our enrollment has been steadily increasing. The state governments are not helping out. Ten years ago the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that primarily funding schools thru property taxes is illegal, yet the state government has yet to provide another formula. Sadly, 0ther things have taken precedence in the legislature and the budget!!

  7. Mike:

    Shorting the school year, layoffs, increased class sizes, eliminating bus routes, less textbooks and shorter school days. How does this help kids get an education? The schools are getting the short end of the stick every time cuts are being made. Which leads me to believe that getting a descent education is starting to become a luxury and not a right. But even private schools are hurting since people are out of work and can’t afford to pay the tuition. The economy is not going to get any better anytime soon and the cuts are going to keep on coming. Candy sales are not cutting so I decided to start using, http://www.mainstreetfair.com they will donate money to schools and since I already sell items online I am now using this site. When my items sells my son’s school gets money. For everyone who is concerned about the lack of funding, you should be using this website.

  8. Brad:

    “They will be attracted to peers with similar backgrounds, and they will lift each other up and succeed.”

    Perhaps, but that leaves a lot out. I have done well as a product (mostly) of the Columbus Public Schools you mention. They lacked a lot in the “opportunity” department and I should have ended up much worse. Sure, I associated with the “advanced science and math” geeks, but they were not that wholesome of a bunch, in general.

    My loner tendencies is what kept me out of a lot of things that would have been quite detrimental.

    Though that is not the root of it. A factor model of education is not the ideal way for anyone. It may be acceptable in a given situation, but it is a flawed model in many ways. Having a system that actively pushes a strong philosophy also hinders things.

    While I have a strong education, up through an M.S., my independent learning has been much more successful in my life than any formal schooling. It is fortunate that any formal schooling didn’t squish that.

    I would strongly encourage anyone to choose the path with more flexibility, ultimately. It is tough striving against the current monopoly, but the groundwork will drastically change over the next few decades. Getting ahead of that change will be much more productive for your own children.

    Brad

  9. I think that public education is what you make of it. If your children come from a loving, responsible home where education is held to a high standard, your children will shine no matter what their school is like. They will be attracted to peers with similar backgrounds, and they will lift each other up and succeed. I had a college of education professor once who could have lived in the ritziest suburbs of Columbus but instead wanted to live within the city limits so his children could attend Columbus City Schools. (Let me just tell you that the Columbus City Schools do not have a good reputation). His children, however, turned out wonderfully because of what they had at home to supplement.

    As for your school’s budget woes… this is what my school has faced these past three or four years: two million in cuts every year (running a school on less than last year is difficult since teachers get raises). This year push came to shove, the voters failed to pass the levy for the second time, and now we’re facing something like another ten million in cuts. Almost one third of the teaching staff is being let go. I can’t even imagine what it will be like next year, but since I’m one of those being let go, I guess it’s not my problem to worry about anymore. I’ll just stay at home with my baby and pray my husband keeps his job!

  10. Brad:

    It is quite likely that we are seeing a coming shift in primary education. The idea that we could “make someone else pay” to fund it is falling apart because there really is no such thing as a free lunch. Money paid for that must come from somewhere. Where do you think they would get it from?

    As to homeschooling, my wife pulled it off with our children and she only had a high school diploma. Dedication and interest is far more important early on. Our children never picked up my love for learning almost anything, but they still know more than most of the graduates of the nearest government school.

    Take advantage of many life experiences and expose your children to many real life things. How “natural” is being cooped up with a group that is within a year of your own age anyway?

    Check out the unschooling movement for some good ideas on flexible approaches. We ended up following a more relaxed schooling approach, but I am not in favor of a highly structured approach whatever method you choose.

    Lots of good support is available and a local library is likely packed with good books. You don’t need to be super patient, you just need to love your children. Your class size is going to shrink dramatically, something that will make up for any loss of formal training. (And it is debatable how valuable that training really is. See the discussions of having practitioners in many areas teach rather than those going through “teacher’s colleges”.)

    I would also note that a factory model of education is not going to hold up to the information economy. We need a more flexible method of instruction that is more personalized. The technology is getting there, but the personalization is far more important in most cases!

    Brad

  11. Lynnae:

    @Kenny – I’d have to move an awful long way, since it’s a statewide problem. We moved into our school district, because it was good, also. But all the schools in the state are dealing with drastic cuts. The biggest school district in the county just announced they would also go to a 4 day school week. Another school district just cut 23 teachers. From Portland down to Ashland, every single school in the state is facing the cuts. In this situation, moving to a good suburb won’t do any good. We already live in a good district. Well, as far as Oregon schools go, anyway…

  12. Kenny:

    Answer is “Move”……Easier said than done, but public vs private is not a question in good suburbs.

    People who do not move are choosing to not eat the cake, nor have it. You lose BOTH ways.

    I pay a big chunk in taxes, but I get Free Schooling and the district here is GREAT. I selected this current home based on the School District, and now my commute is greater, but I am happier since kids are doing well.

    Today they are in Champaign, IL with other top schools at a Math Competition. Would it have happened with my old school > NO WAY.

    take care…..

    Kenny

  13. As much as I respect both Christian schools and homeschooling, I have to go with the hybrid approach. There are definitely things that your kids will learn in public school (and socialization with people who are different than you as well as teachers they don’t like (which is also a valuable life skill) and then you can supplement at home. That way you can still blog, still pay off your debt, and provide your kids with a good education on the side.

  14. Robert Johnson:

    Isn’t it interesting that public schools say they are doing such a great job educating children, but they fight any attempt to set up a voucher system that would allow parents to choose the school for their children and use the the money the state pays for their childs education.

    If they are doing such a good job, why do they fight vouchers at every turn? If these schools were really doing a good job educating children, they would welcome vouchers because the schools that are doing the best job would grow and have even more funding.

    But the stone cold reality is that some public schools would literally go away, many would struggle and the few that are doing a great job would actually grow. But vouchers would accomplish in one or two years what nothing else including more money has ever been able to accomplish.

    It would force public schools to really improve how they educate students, or they would literally go away and be replaced by private organizations that would lease existing school facilities and take over where the public schools have failed.

    Remember, private schools have to excel at educating students or parents are not going to pay $5,000 or more per year to have their children go there. Private schools face the real world of having to actually provide a superior education, because if they dont’t they will cease to exist. They don’t get the $5500 that the state gives to each student they have in their district. They have to do a superior job educating students every day or parents won’t pay tuition.

    Public schools are always crying for more money, yet private schools provide a superior education for far less money than public schools. In Oregon, when you add in bond measures that school districts are allowed to use to build buildings and facilities, taxpayers spend almost $8,000 per year on every public school student. Most private schools are in the $5-6,000 range.

    Most public schools know all about doing less with more, but they know nothing about doing more with less. It is no wonder they are completely clueless about how to deal with a huge budget shortfall. Instead of looking at everything they spend money on and asking the question “are we getting our moneys worth?”, their answer is to fire teachers and/or cut school days.

    (Now I will get off my soapbox!)

  15. Lynnae:

    Rebecca – In our state, part of the funding of each school district is determined by the number of kids in the district. Part of the money comes from property taxes (and that all goes to the district), and part comes from the state. It’s the state part that is determined by number of students, so pulling kids out to homeschool does have an impact on the district’s budget.

    However, the public school system isn’t working effectively, and I don’t think anyone who can change it is really going to acknowledge that something needs to be changed, unless kids start leaving public schools. So while I feel bad that pulling my kids out may hurt the funding for the schools, I’m not willing to sacrifice my children’s education, just so the school can have more funding.

    In the end, the responsibility for raising my children and making sure they’re well educated lies with me, and my first responsibility is to my kids.

  16. “I worry about what rising homeschooling numbers do to the funding of classrooms.”

    Someone commented about this above, but actually I pay taxes in my town, yet my kids are homeschooled, so this actually helps the school. They still get my taxes, how does this hurt the school?

    That being said only God knows what is best for your family. And I only take it year by year, my kids may go back to public school next year or in a few years, you always have that option.

    I will also say we belong to a wonderful co-op. We meet two days a week 10-5 (with core and extra curricular activities.) Co-op starts with 15 min. of worship.
    Co-op core classes are science, history, and geography. So at home I focus on math, spelling. language arts, and english (plus music & language which we have not gotten to yet.)
    Extra classes are dance, art, music, drama, writing, and Odyssey of the Mind (we don’t do all, but these are all that are offered.)

    Co-op is so great, I do not think I would homeschool with out it. I teach preschool, which I love (my kids are out of preschool age now.)
    I would recommend getting involved in something like this.

    Thanks for your blog! -Becky

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