Early this month, I received an e-mail survey from the school district my daughter will attend next year as a kindergartner. The e-mail was on behalf of the Parents as Teachers program in the district, which provides training to parents during the early years of their children's lives from birth to age 3. The program is offered by parent educators who are employed through the district.
When I clicked on the survey, I learned that over the past two years, the district has been forced to reduce the general fund budget by $20 million. Unfortunately, next year's school year also will come with significant budget reductions. School closings approved by the board of education earlier this school year will save $1.7 million for next year, but even with the closings, this still leaves more than $10 million in needed reductions.
The purpose of the survey was to hear from parents and community members to help guide decisions. For instance, eliminating the Parents as Teachers program would save $200,000. Some other options:
- Reduce administrators for a savings of $276,000.
- Reduce administrative support staff (11 positions) for a savings of about $457,000.
- Increase facility rental fees by 20 percent and/or increase fees for parent-pay bus transportation.
- Reduce custodial services to save about $680,000, reducing 22 positions districtwide.
- Eliminate the purchase of library books for the 2011-2012 school year for a savings of $107,000.
- Eliminate the elementary band and strings program for a savings of $707,000.
- Reduce special education staff by 33.5 positions for a savings of about $1.5 million.
- Increase the pupil-teacher ratio in regular education classes to save about $3.4 million.
It would have been easy to just check the "Strongly Disagree" box on all of these proposals, but at the end of the survey, I was challenged to pick six that I felt were most important.
Keeping in mind that the district must achieve $10.5 million in reductions, I was left with tough questions but no easy answers.
Lustig is executive editor of AS&U.