The Morning Report
Get the news and information you need to take on the day.
There is a lot as always in recent news about massive cuts once again to the operating budget of San Diego Unified School District. Most importantly in my mind, is that of teacher layoffs, directly equating to larger class sizes and less successful education of children and adolescents. The same scenarios play out year after year in recent history, through teacher layoffs, pink slips, elimination of educational programs, furlough days and the list goes on.
All of these amount to less real education for students. In a time when so few things are affordable and the term “trim the fat” is tossed around so frequently, I too will point out that there is plenty to trim from San Diego Unified School District’s budget to maintain what is most important: student-to-teacher ratio. If you want to successfully educate anyone, you need to ensure that the teacher can actually reach the students. This is true at any level. There is a reasonable span of control for teachers, which means they can only truly connect to a limited number of students. This number can of course be due to a number of factors such as the lessons, along with special needs of certain students or class make-up.
But the fact of the matter is that class size is already beyond that of highly successful models, and continues to swell due to continued enrollment paired with layoffs of teachers. Those who say that the district has been successful in limiting layoffs are missing the point. We don’t need to limit our losses; we need more teachers to achieve a better teacher-to-student ratio to help kids receive the most possible from their time spent in a classroom. Where will we get the money to pay for this you ask? You trim the fat! The fat in this case is everything that is not absolutely essential to teachers teaching and students learning. Now many of these example that I provide may enhance the learning environment, but what truly teaches is teachers, and lots of them.
The San Diego Unified School District is like any other big government agency that tries to provide everything rather than focusing on their core role. It is after all, a board of education, so educate. Buses: When money is short, free or nearly free transportation is a luxury we simply should not afford. Schools are in all neighborhoods so that tax-paying families have access to education. There is no longer a need to shuttle people out of their neighborhoods, far away from home to go to school in a place they don’t live. If you want your kids to go to school in a different neighborhood from your own, that is on you. You find a way to get them there. Food: Schools continue to provide more and more meals at little or no cost to students. It is the schools job to educate, not to feed. If you don’t want to give your kids something to eat before school, a snack for later and a reasonable lunch, well that is your poor decision. I understand that times are hard for some, but it is not the government’s role to parent for parents. Part of starting a family is understanding what that means. You will need to provide the basics for your family, and yes, that means feeding your children.
There may be very limited exceptions to this rule, but it is time for schools to charge full boat for this expensive service, or eliminate it completely. Before- and after-school programs are another example of this. The school is for education, not for day care before and after the school day…unless of course you pay for it. Taking care of your kids is a parent’s responsibility, not the schools. There was an article in U-T San Diego about the concessions that school police are willing to take to “assist” towards cutting back. In reality, that whole program probably has very limited value. Based on all of their operating cost, their role in true policing is a nice idea, but not essential to education. Let’s face it; when schools have a significant security problem or crimes at school, whom do they call? The real police. This is a duplication of service, which is already provided in respective jurisdictions. City police agencies are better-equipped and more experienced to handle real problems within schools and quite frankly wield a heavier legal stick in the eyes of kids and parents.
Those are just a handful of suggestions that carry real immediate impact on the district’s budget problems, and may not only help lessen teacher layoffs, but actually add to the ranks of those directly impacting the education of kids in classrooms. Sure they sound harsh, and they will unfortunately equate to layoffs somewhere, but not in the classrooms. San Diego Board of Education, focus on your core mission: educating kids. When excess funding becomes available, you can once again resume funding of other programs that simply enhance the educational environment, and take some of the time and financial “burdens” of parenting off of some parents.
Whether you agree with me wholly, in part, even not at all, get involved at the local and state level with educational boards that are or should be exploring their options to ultimately create a more successful learning experience for kids. Write, call, and email your concerns and or ideas to board members and legislators to help achieve this goal. However they choose to fix our budget woes, know that teachers in classrooms teach our kids. We need to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that core principle is understood and protected, for the students!
Marc Caron lives in Bay Park.
Want to contribute to discussion? Submit a suggestion to Fix San Diego.