Thursday, May 13, 2010

On a Smaller Scale

As it stands, in the proposed budget for the next year, the state of Illinois plans cut $1.3 billion dollars in funding for education. In Chicago, that means a $368 million dollar cut to the Chicago Public School system. Statewide the jobs of 30,000 teachers will be eliminated, in Chicago 2,700 teachers will be without jobs this September. As proposed by Governor Quinn and itemized by Ron Huberman, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, the proposed budget is scary and full of big sweeping numbers that sound intimidating and wholly detrimental to the ability of our state to educate our children.

But in the practical sense, what does all this mean? For us, a grim setback to what had promised to be a running start at creating a really great school. Specifically, the loss of 3 teachers with an enrollment increase of 85 children. Principals are left to make decisions as to how best to allocate resources, weighting the lower, and more populated grades, with more teachers, and crowding the older classrooms, at a time when a good educational experience can make a difference in the lifetime learning of the student. Dance with the numbers a bit, separate the Pre-K, add the special education teachers and you are left with more than 30 children per class, including kindergarten.Kindergartens are reduced to half day, two and a half hours to learn and play and grow accustomed to school, a time frame I find impossible to imagine having spent the past year watching two girls blossom in their full day kindergarten class. And my children take this wonderful kindergarten experience and head into a first grade class with more than 35 students.

And the focus shifts, administrators become fund raisers. Parents are asked to contribute, beyond bake sales and walk-a-thons, we are being asked to donate $2,000 per child, for a public education. Our school is a relative bargain, a larger and more established school nearby is considering a $5,000 per child donation. We'll pay, although in principle I find it alarming, but I can't stand on principle when my children's education is being threatened. What becomes then of the roughly 60% of the children at our school who are categorized as low income? And what becomes of the schools in neighborhoods where that number is higher; who contributes at a school where the low income student number hovers near 94%?

Fund raising is difficult to sustain, and only a superficial response to a systemic problem. A knee jerk reaction to some alarming numbers, in essence a loan to keep a school afloat, for one more year.

The Chicago Public School system is currently responsible for the education of 409,972 students, two of which are mine. The numbers do matter, to me, to our family and to the other 409, 970 students and their families. The children matter, and they should matter to to you and to Governor Quinn and to Ron Huberman, but do they?

1 comment:

Jen said...

the makings of an excellent op-ed, to be sure. not just the Trib, but CST, Crain's and every blog we can think of.


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