2002-04-20 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk by Howard Schwach

From the Editor’s Desk by Howard Schwach

The cuts to the Community School District 27 will be so horrendous that it is hard to understand why public school parents are not up in arms, storming the gates of Gracie Mansion (although they would probably find that there was nobody home), of the state legislature (where there is never anybody home when it comes to the concerns of voters) and of the city council (where everybody is too new to understand what is going on).

Right now, today, the district is looking at $6.2 million in cuts for September. Should some expected money from the state and federal governments not materialize, then add another $3.8 to those cuts.

The $6.2 million cuts are here, they are real, they are devastating.

Here are some of the cuts that this district will be making in September:

  • 30 educational paraprofessionals, the people who work with overcrowded kindergarten teachers, with special education teachers, with handicapped kids.
  • 11 guidance counselors, the people who work individually with kids in problem situations, discipline, high school placement.
  • 10 school aides, the people who work in the cafeteria, get the right kid on the right bus, keep the copy machines going so that teachers have material to use in their classroom, keep the attendance and to contact parents.
  • The remaining portion of the Project Arts program. This will remove 27 teachers from district school buildings. These teachers worked with small groups of children on art projects, operas, musicals, did staff development for other teachers, coordinated school music and art programs.
  • 22 staff developers who worked with teachers in district schools on such issues as curriculum, methodology and discipline.
  • Elimination of the Project Read after school program in the third grade for one-third of the district’s elementary schools.
  • 3 language coordinators, people who work with individual students in the elementary schools on language problems.
  • Elimination of the "Ending Social Promotion" program which provided teachers to work with students who were at risk of not being promoted. The cuts include 12 teaching positions, $305 thousand in per-session money for teachers to work after school, $62 thousand in per diem money to hire substitutes for the program and $100 thousand for books and supplies for teachers in the program. This program was mandated for both elementary and middle school students.
  • 2 Special Education teacher trainers. These people work with new special education teachers to provide the training and staff development necessary for them to operate in their classrooms.
  • Elimination of the Principal’s Choice program, which provided supplies, forms, stamps and the like to schools.

That is the first round of cuts. They will be made in September unless the powers-that-be change their collective minds about the cuts. The second round will come should the expected money not show up, a distinct possibility. Forty percent of that secondary money will be used to cut what are called "Core Educational Programs."

We’re talking about classroom teachers, people.

I am not sure that the district is making the necessary cuts, taking the pain in the district office rather than in the schools.

Matt Bromme assures me that this district has the smallest district office budget in relation to the number of children it administers as any other district around.

It is hard to look at cutting Project Arts, for example, when the district has two deputy superintendents, an assistant superintendent for middle schools, a supervising principal who is in charge of the "Superintendent’s Academy" and myriad other district office functionaries who might be necessary in good times, but should be considered as "fat" when times are lean, as they are today.

It is hard to look at the district office itself, a prominent office building on Atlantic Avenue, that now houses only the district office on all of its four floors.

How much is the district paying for that palace? Could that money be used for classroom programs if it were not being used for the rent?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, because information is scarce.

I do know from my time in the schools that all the money comes from the public in one form or another.

There is tax levy money that comes from local and state taxes. There is reimbursable money that comes from the state and federal government for mandated programs such as Chapter I reading.

There is no other money, as far as I know, unless it comes from private funding. I do not believe the district office falls into that category.

The bottom line is that things are tough and they will soon be tougher.

The district’s parents should get together with the local school board and with teacher’s groups to get the word out to our legislators that the cuts will not be tolerated.

That’s a message that needs to be heard loud and long.

And, it may already be too late.


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