Slashing K12 Budget, Getting Real is a Bitch

Many people asked me what I thought about State Legistlator approving a nearly $140 million cut in soft capital budget for K-12 education.  I never like to see education getting it’s budget cut.  However, it’s time to get real.  Getting real is a bitch.  We are $2 billion in the hole this year and another $3 billion in the hole next year.  We don’t have a line of credit internally to borrow from anymore.  At this point we are looking to private banks for funding.  The state of Arizona is in severe economic crisis and everyone is going to have to dig in and take it in the shorts.  I think the current cuts to education have been kind.  They could have been much, much worse and I suspect they will be in the future.

I call this opportunity.  You see in every circumstance of hardship, we have the opportunity for the human spirit to shine through, creativity to spark and innovation to spur change in ways we could never imagine when we are fat and happy.  Am I  scared for our educational system?  Hell yes. So while, being pinned back in the corner like an angry dog with no options out but to fight is not where we want to be; I know that Arizonian’s have a hell of a lot of fight in them.  I am excited to see them fight off this downturn and emerge on the other side as the leader of the pack.  Laughing at other states still stuck in the dark ages of education because they didn’t have to scrap just to stay alive.  I’ll put my money on the angry, hungry and desperate in any fight.  I say.. Bring it on!

What are your thoughts?

8 Comments

  1. “I am excited to see them fight off this downturn and emerge on the other side as the leader of the pack.”

    Did you go to public school here, Derek? I did. That was in the ’80s and ’90s. It was bare-bones back then — 32 kids to a classroom, outdated equipment, teachers holding “sick-outs” because the state booted their kids off of the health insurance rolls.

    It makes me sick to my stomach to think about what’s happening now. You want to talk about why Phoenix is mediocre and not living up to its potential? It’s because of the ongoing lack of investment in public education. We didn’t get creative then — who’s going to get creative now?

  2. I did go to school in Arizona.. Washington School District K-12. Investment does not always mean money. Currently the state is damn near bankrupt. We the people need to stand up and make a difference in education. If we fail to do so, then we deserve to be mediocre.

  3. Do we really need to throw thousands of little kids under the bus because we allowed our economy to depend so heavily on the housing market? I say no. It’s unnecessary. Keep the schools funded — we’re allowed to be in debt for a year per the AZ constitution.

  4. I have been closely involved in a parent volunteer organization for over 8 years now. I have dealt with teachers, administrators, district administration and the school board in this position. All of this close experience has been within the Gilbert Unified School District, one of the best in the state. From this admittedly narrow experience I am about to make a large generalization.

    Most teachers, administrators, district administrators and school board members don’t want what is best for the students. They want what is best for themselves or their position or the regulations or what some PhD. Ed. author said in some book somewhere. They want to think they way they have been trained to think, not in creative ways that will cause the value per education dollar to explode.

    – They take out loans to buy computers, a capital investment that looses value and becomes obsolete faster than anything else they can buy. They will be trowing those computers away as too old before they even have them paid off.

    – They spend $10,000’s refurbishing the football field and then don’t let the football team or especially the band use the field for two years because they might damage it. What’s the field for, a garden?

    – Why isn’t someone correcting the logistical or curriculum problem that requires teachers to beg for copy paper during open house events? If you don’t have enough paper, the budget is wrong or the curriculum is wrong and it’s not the job of teachers and parents to correct that. How dare the administration put teachers in such a position! How dare they present such a shoddy planning image to the parents they serve!

    – Administrators require the band to travel to away games and then send the parent organization a bill to pay for the district school buses to transport them.

    – The board does not want true community participation and evidenced by the inability to get information about board meetings. For example, if you want a quote from a board meeting you must take a day off of work to go listen to the official recording on special DAT tape at the district offices and take manual notes of the recording.

    – Some teachers don’t want to help outside the lesson plan and will not do anything to help their one failing student unless you drag in the administration to ask for just make-up homework or weekly status reports.

    Several of the above situations I have personally tried to volunteer to correct or discuss with the officials involved. I have not been allowed to make any meaningful contribution and had lip service at best or been to “you don’t know what you are talking about” at worse.

    I fight for funding where it is needed and sincerely believe high dollar investment is best for our students. But, I desperately hope this forced tightening of funds will open some minds and knock down some ivory towers so change is not seen as a threat, but as a necessity of life. They need to invite the talent of the community into the education process and get over themselves.

  5. As someone who has helped to fund student supplies because my wife is a teacher I can agree with many of Alan’s points. The administration rarely does what is “best” for the kids, they do what is best for the administration. This isn’t their fault either though in a lot of ways because they are beholden to silly rules and laws rather than having the freedom to do what is right.

    I’ve got no issue with the school billing the band to travel to away games, hell charge the team too (they may for all I know).

    There are no easy solutions to this problem as bean counters will find ways to ask about the necessity of each and every supply if you say just fund their supplies.

    But most of the teachers I know just self fund their classrooms as much as they can because there is no other viable way. The IRS only allows for up to $250/year to be written off for this. My family is well beyond that threshold this year.

  6. Chris is right. Everyone up and down the chain is not at fault. The system is broken, from the classroom to Washington DC. Every person at every level has rules and regulations that they must comply with and gives them a reason to perpetuate the broken system.

    For example, a couple of years ago I had a long conversation about budgeting with Van Dunham, then a member of the Gilbert School Board. He stated that about 65-70% of the district budget is there to fulfill state and federal mandates and cannot be changed. So the board can only do so much. Principles and teachers face similar mandates and rules such that sometimes they aren’t allowed to do what is needed, only what is “right.”

    I have a problem with parents paying $600+ per child to participate in marching band from August to November and then administrators and the school board bragging about the great music program that they did not fund.

    Parents right now are paying hundreds of dollars per year for chess clubs, robotics clubs, choir, band, animal husbandry and sports, at all levels of the system. On top of that some parents are giving of their time, whole weekends even, riding in school buses and pushing equipment around.

    Your wife and family are a fabulous example of teacher dedication that meets or exceeds that of the parents. (I salute you and thank you!)

    What thanks to dedicated parents and teachers get? They watch district officials take credit, hear requests for more taxes and have their teaching jobs put at risk.

    It’s broken. If we doubled the amount of money spent, it would still be broken, just shiny. I don’t want shiny, I want a system that works. A system with students, teachers, parents and administrators that work as a team accountable to each other and to results. If decreasing the money forces the system to change, it will be worth the pain.

  7. “It’s broken. If we doubled the amount of money spent, it would still be broken, just shiny. I don’t want shiny, I want a system that works. A system with students, teachers, parents and administrators that work as a team accountable to each other and to results. If decreasing the money forces the system to change, it will be worth the pain.”

    Beautifully stated. I think this sums up my position nicely.

  8. Deep in the spine of this entire broken system are the idiots who still hold to parties and governments as the primary gatekeepers of education.

    Neither party has anything to be proud of when it comes to education.

    My wife has been teaching for 14 years.

    I have found that the majority of the teachers I meet are bitter nasty humans with profound levels of pettiness.

    I see administration acting like the clergy, and not being made to answer for themselves

    I’ve read emails and newsletters from union leaders spouting their political rhetoric

    ..I could go on.

    we know money is not the primary answer, but what could make education great is ultimately short-circuted by politicians and parasites.

    rant rant rant…

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