The Most Messed With Group of Educators

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Schools, South Bend

I feel sorry for the Kindergarten aides in the South Bend School Corporation.  I think they have a very difficult job and are underpaid.  I also think they are absolutely critical and necessary to the classroom.  But the South Bend School Corporation needs to cut $10 million.  So, what do they do…they release all the Kindergarten aides (in what meeting and who decides?), then have a public school board meeting, and change their mind.  This happens every other month.  Last night was round three of the exact same pattern.  Who can live in that stress and worry?!!  Good grief!!!

But…the school system has to cut $10 MILLION!!!

Now let me get this straight…the school system needs to cut 10,000,000 (count all the zeros) and you are going to do it off of the salaries of the Kindergarten aides!?!!  How much are they making...$250,000 a year?!  Really?  10 million and the most urgent and dispensable category is in the Kindergarten classroom!?!  You are trying to tell me that Kindergarten aides are bankrupting our school corporation (even in part)!!!!?  Come on !!!

I’ll tell you where to cut…

Cut out of the $15.2 million transportation budget!!!  Yes…that’s right.  $15.2 million (it looks like this $15,200,000) spent on busing kids from every point in our city to a different school in another part of the city!!  It is BEYOND absurd.

I’m sure it was well-intentioned and considered a great idea…but these “magnet” and “traditional” schools (at every level) that now have kids from every part of the city being bused in is outrageous.  Kids are out on the street as early as 6:20 am catching a bus to take them to the other side of town.  I’m for school choice.  If you want your kid to go to Kennedy, I’m great with that.  Then the parent can be responsible to drive their kid to Kennedy.  But for the school corporation to bear the responsibly to bus that kid to Kennedy (not to mention after school activities and the activity buses necessary for that as well) is a cost that we can clearly no longer afford.

Bring back neighborhood schools!!!

You need to cut $10 million…leave the teacher’s aides alone and pick up a transportation budget and start your cutting there!

[This humble opinion offered to you by Sam I Am.  But…I’m also looking for some pushback so come on…bring it! 🙂 ]

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Comments
  1. I thought some of that was prompted and forced by the federal government because the schools were not diverse enough. I see the need for diversity and don’t want to saddle kids in a poor socio-economic area with bad schools, but I see your point. Frankly I think they need to increase teacher compensation across the board but I think we should do it on an inverse scale. Increase pay at the worst schools more and faster than at schools with good test scores.

    If a teacher could make $100K a year, we’d have the best schools in the world and we’d have our pick of the best people as teachers.

  2. Robert Emery says:

    No pushback from me. But you can have an “Atta Boy” for saying what needs to be said.

  3. the other ed says:

    Although I agree that teachers are underpaid and the need to encourage cultural diversity, I don’t think raising salaries is the answer, considering that they already are looking to cut 10 million somewhere. That’s not to say that your statement is without merit. I think we need to have some way to encourage more people to become teachers. Cutting jobs doesn’t help. Having been in the SBCSC and now in a different school system, I think the one way South Bend can improve their schools ir REQUIRE parent involvement. I also think that the community, as a whole, NEEDS to get involved!
    Whatever happend to good old fashioned community fundraising?
    There needs to be more private sector fundraising with the proceeds going to the school in that particular area.
    It also seems to me that South Bend, as a whole, has become become apathetic towards the situation.
    Thats not to say that about everyone. If you look at the magent schools, one of their requirements is parent involvement. In order for your child to attend Kennedy or Hamilton, you HAVE to give a certain amount of your time per month. And usually, its miniscule.
    I think the community at large needs to take ownership of the school in their neighborhood. It’s no accident that Monroe has turned itself around…The kids and the teachers know that someone in that neighborhood cares about them, and sometimes, that is 75% of the battle.

  4. Heather Hetler says:

    What about those kids from families where the parent cannot drive their child to school? It becomes a matter of privilege, then, and solves absolutely nothing. I do think that cutting from transportation should be done– I think there are issues beyond magnet schools. And although my son and daughter attend them and they will never be entirely cut, I am not convinced the magnet schools were a smart plan in general for the health of our school district.

    However, your suggestion is not one I would ever support (not that they ask me…) Just because we can drive our kids across town does not mean it is a viable option for everyone. I would not support something that would further divide our city by economic class.

  5. Excellent. Thanks for the pushback…and keep it coming. Let me help stoke it!

    @Charles – yes, the concept of busing students into a neighborhood school goes way back for consent decrees in regards to racial diversity. And, I think that is still possible to fulfill those like, and in the same manner, as it was in the early 80s. But that is an entirely different thing than busing kids all over the district to a different school and at every level! (e.g., Riley district kids bused to Clay, etc.). But even with the busing, it hasn’t provided equality among our schools. There is still discrepancy between them and it runs largely around socio-economic levels. But this is a very complex and systemic issue and I don’t want to pretend there is a simple solution (otherwise I’m sure someone would have discovered it).

    @Ed – requiring parental involvement…you have something there.

    @Heather – I still think there are creative ways (e.g., car pooling, etc.) that can be of help for a family who really (not inconvenienced…but really impossible) cannot drive their child to school. And with the money you save each year from eliminating a ton of routes, you could practically hire someone in the school full-time to take on such a project. You seem to be ok with cutting from transportation, but from what then? As the budget is this very issue. Fuel, maintenance, and driver salaries don’t seem significantly negotiable items in the transportation budget. If we have a 10 million deficit, busing kids all over the district seems to be a luxury (we at one time in the very near past didn’t do) that we can no longer afford now. And I would contend, that this “magnet” concept (as I think you rightfully point out in regards to the general health of the school system) HAS produced a privileged class. Anytime only a handful of students are let into a handful of schools that have four star ratings (and I’m speaking as a parent of a daughter in one of these schools) – you have created a class of students who are in fact privileged. I would scrap the “magnet” and “traditional” school models as they now are and place on ALL of the schools the exact same expectations for students AND parents as exists now at Hamilton, Kennedy, Tarkington, etc. This, to me, would do better at eliminated this privileged status and level, at least in some way, the playing field for schools like Monroe, Lincoln, etc. And level it in a way that I’ve not seen the busing of students all over the district do. And that is why I don’t believe the elimination of busing kids all over the district is a divider of the economic classes. Finally, I go back to the point of my blog…I don’t think the salaries of Kindergarten aides will be the relief necessary for our 10 million dollar deficit?

  6. We may not have spent $10 million bussing kids but it sure wasn’t $0. I’m sure even if we eliminated bussing kids across town, we still would bus kids locally. If your local schools is 3-5 miles, which is likely, we’d still be bussing kids. I agree that it makes sense to look there for cuts but I’m curious how much we can save.

    They always start looking for cuts in the portion of the budget where they spend the most money. I seem to recall that employee compensation accounted for about 80% of the budget at one time. No idea if that’s still the case.

  7. heatherinIN says:

    First, I am NOT in favor of cutting their positions, just to be clear. I work in a school, and I see how critical they are. In my school, I have no idea how kindergarten teachers would get a lunch or a prep without the IAs, because kindergarteners don’t have gym, art, or music with the specials teachers.

    OK, now that THAT’s clear–I think that salary + benefits probably adds up to more than $250,000, though I still know it’s far less than 10 mil. But, I wonder how much the overall savings would be with insurance included? Or does that $250,000 include insurance?

    And I do agree that the magnet system has most benefited the already privileged, and one major factor of that is the fact that the application period involves being on top of next year before this year is even half over, with no exceptions. I can’t imagine them scrapping the system now, though, and mostly because of vouchers. If you scrapped the magnets, how many of those (privileged) students would go back to their neighborhood schools, and how many would enroll in a private school with a voucher? It would be incredibly detrimental to SBCSC overall, and I just can’t see them doing it.

    I do know they’ve been talking about closing schools. Rumor I hear is Greene, don’t know if there are others. That is definitely a way to save a lot of money. As much as I can barely get it out (I love our insurance!) there is also probably a way to save money by changing the benefits. And as far as transportation: I think that they need a major overhaul of routing in general, and I’ve read that they maintain too many buses and have other overhead costs that could be reduced. Not $10 mil worth, most likely, but I’m not sure cutting all from one area is ever going to work. Your idea for providing more assistance in setting up a carpool is a creative one–I do wish that we saw more creative thinking for cutting the budget, and it’s just not normally the case. Is transportation legally required to be free? I have no idea, but what about a scaled payment scale for busing? If you qualify for free lunch, it’s all free. If you don’t, you pay for the privilege, or your parents transport you? (and I can’t resist an environmental side note–I do prefer buses over all of the parents driving, because of the environmental impact…)

    In defense of our schools–all of the Title 1 schools, at least, have efforts to increase parental involvement, with “3 for me”. It’s hard to force involvement–what do you do with families where they don’t meet requirements? You can’t kick them out entirely. I do think the schools in general set an expectation for some sort of involvement. (though, Carl has tried multiple times to volunteer in Erik’s classroom, and his teacher is not interested at LaSalle–sometimes parents are interested, and it isn’t welcome…)

    I don’t have any real good answers for education reform. The issues are so big, and after some time it gets depressing to even try.

  8. @Heather – yes! I agree and like a lot of what you point out. It would be very hard for them to stop all of the “magnet” and “traditional” schools now. And can you imagine the controversy?! I can’t help but wonder though if desperate times call for desperate measures. And, as you point out, I can’t even guarantee that parents would send their kids back to neighborhood schools instead of taking advantage of the voucher system. In the mode of “full disclosure” we didn’t with our middle son. He went to Jackson for one year, and then, on the voucher system, he goes to a private school (the reasons are many and go down to the complexity of interpersonal relationships within marriage 🙂 ). But in my mind, what if 50 kids who are smart, talented, and from stable homes and environments went back to their neighborhood school – what a difference that would make! That would be a large percentage. And I can’t help but think it would change the entire dynamic of a school. And I agree that closing schools would definitely save some significant coinage. I know there was talk about closing Hamilton two years ago and it there was an uproar (which I understand because Hamilton is a 4-star school). But the newly renovated Monroe (which has a lot of space totally unused) looks like it can easily take on the entire student body of Hamilton. I also like your idea about maybe a fee being included in transportation (much like school lunches). I’ve never thought of that. It just seems crazy to me the amount of busing the takes place. Not just for school…but any kid in any after school activity gets bused as well. When I was in SBCSC (just a few years ago) if you were in extra-curricular activities – it was your responsibility to get home. And when I think of Mishawaka schools – they don’t bus ANYONE with the exception of a few special needs students. How do they do it? And by contrast…how did we get into this crazy bus kids all over the place situation!? Finally, I do know that many Title I schools are trying to increase parental involvement. And I know you can’t kick kids out who have lame and non-participatory parents. But at least you set the bar and articulate high expectations. I think most will rise to it. I also know not every teacher is open to a stream of parents coming into the classroom. Part of me is even sympathetic to it. Like you, it is so big and so complicated that after the headache hits it is easy to say, “forget it…hand me the remote…American Idol is on.”

  9. the other ed says:

    At Plymouth Schools, the students at the junior high and high school get a macbook. They rent it just like a textbook. All of their textbooks are contained on this mac book.
    Typically, a school will buy a text book for science. Then for a period of approxiamtely 9 years, they teach from that textbook. In some cases, regardless of new discoveries, they HAVE to teach out of that textbook (example…Pluto becomes a dwarf planet)
    With the mac book, Lena’s science book is updated EVERY 6 months. At no charge.
    Considering the cost for textbooks versus the cost of a mac book, I think the mac book pays for itself after a few years.
    The cool part is, The school does not pay full price for the mac book because of a deal with Apple.

    As far as the busing part is concerned, I believe the routing and districting are to blame. The bus routes are so convoluted and twisted it’s a surprise that anyone can make heads or tails of it. The end result becomes that you have some buses that are full of kids, and other buses nearly empty.

    However, I do not agree with keeping kids in the schools located in their neighborhoods. We used to live a hop, skip, and a jump from our neighborhood school, and it was failing to properly prepare our kids for anything, much less educating them. If we expect parents to send their kids to the schools located in their respective neighborhoods, then we have to set the educational baseline on something other the the ISTEP. Remember, the ISTEP is a state minimum requirement. Why is SBCSC, as whole (not individually) aiming for the minimum?

    Shouldn’t the schools be aiming for excellence, not mediocrity? I think also that the teachers need ot be given more leeway in their particular course curriculum, rather than follow, say a math program, instituted for the whole school system?

    I guess what it all boils down to is there are some extrememly bright and talented people working at SBCSC, but for whatever reason, they are not getting their ideas heard. There should be programs in place to reward ideas!

  10. Loving my Husband says:

    Heres something else that may not be out yet. They are considering outsourcing the nurses to Memorial Health Care. It would save the school system 1.2 million. Instead of having RN’s in most of the schools full time there will be aids and a couple of supervisors. As the mother of a child that has had seizures and the last one being at school, that scares me. At the school my children attend everyone knows them and their situations but if they were to redistrict, as has been brought up and end up at a bigger school-then what?

  11. heatherinIN says:

    Busing for extracurriculars isn’t actually free! The schools pay an activity bus fee, at least at the primary level. Now, I don’t know the whole deal in south bend. Perhaps they do cover more for the traditional schools and intermediate and up? I am not sure, but I know the fee limits the amount of extracurriculars we can offer at McKinley. A lot of times they offer one bus but kids have to pay money to ride it–not the full cost, but some.

    I would love to see more neighborhood families at mcKinley–I love my school! But I have to say, I am nearly certain we would go private for the intermediate level child. I feel like I should be willing to give the local intermediates a chance but so far I am not. 😉 well, since Trinity is 2 blocks from our house, it kind of counts as neighborhood, right?

    And the nurses leaving the school worries me, too! We have a full-time nurse at McKinley, and she is really busy!

    Ed, the idea to reward ideas deseres a reward! I can’t offer you much, though, maybe some cookies.

  12. heatherinIN says:

    And that article, Sam. Awful! The worst part, I think (though the whole thing is repugnant), is the line about hanging out at her house with her AND HER CHILDREN! Sad.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I am glad that this subject was brought up. As someone who is thinking of moving back to the SB area, the school situation is high on my mind. It’s scary. Especially the thought of the school district cutting 10 mil off of the budget!! That’s a lot! As far as the busing goes there is a school system in the Indy area that started charging for students to ride the bus. The district had to cut several million off of their budget so they eliminated transportation and now a private company contracts to provide transportation. Groups have ruled it unconstitutional and it is being appealed. To my understanding it is the 1 st system in the state to do this. It’s reported that many of the school districts are watching and waiting for the outcome. If it passes I have a feeling it will be the beginning of many school systems following their lead.

  14. the other ed says:

    I have no further comments on this issue, except to say, Heather, I will take those cookies!

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