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Penny wise, pound foolish
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Penny wise, pound foolish
The Montgomery County School Board recently voted, in the name of economizing, to dismantle many of the most nurturing basics of middle school educational philosophy. It is sad to think that my young grandsons will be denied the excellent education Blacksburg Middle School has offered to a generation of students.
Cutting teachers and teacher planning time will ensure that children, during their most tender transition years, will run a greater risk of getting lost in the crowd, becoming anonymous in the work overload of their underpaid, yet tenaciously dedicated, teachers.
An obvious solution to the ongoing school budget cuts is a citizenry willing to support education by paying a bit more in taxes. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Draining the resources of our schools ensures us an uncivilized future.
School board stopped listening
The Montgomery County School Board’s decision on Feb. 19 to cut 19.6 teaching positions from the county’s middle schools is alarming. Despite hearing from concerned teachers and parents, the board voted 4-3 to substantially increase the number of students middle school teachers serve each day and to reduce teacher planning time.
Many budget reduction proposals have been presented to the board during these difficult economic times. When stakeholders brought concerns about closing schools, the board listened. When support staff spoke against outsourcing, the board listened. When parents protested moving their children when the new Prices Fork Elementary opened, the board listened, even after spending $80,000 on a redistricting study that recommended otherwise. The board listened on pay-for-play, the governor’s school, gifted education and the list goes on.
But when teachers came to four consecutive meetings providing evidence of the negative impact this loss of teachers would have on their schools’ cultures, communities and students, the board quickly voted in support of the proposed reductions without regard for questions and concerns posed by the experts in the classroom. What does this say about the value our school board places on its teachers’ professional judgment and knowledge?
A vote for money not education
According Superintendent Brenda Blackburn (“New model improves middle schools,” Feb. 24 commentary), cutting 19.6 teachers from middle schools will allow more flexibility in the schedule, more direct teacher time with students and more in-depth learning time. This logic escapes me. How can the loss of 19.6 teaching positions at the middle-school level benefit students? In reality, with 25 or more additional students and a reduction in planning time, a teacher’s ability to effectively meet the diverse needs of students will be compromised.
Improved flexibility, more in-depth learning experiences and more direct time with students is accomplished with proper staffing, not staffing reminiscent of old junior high models where teachers often taught 130 to 150 students each day. Teachers invite scheduling changes that both enrich student learning and value their emotional and developmental needs.
In fact, many have been advocating for just that. However, the school board did not vote on scheduling changes. Instead it voted to eliminate teaching positions in middle schools, thereby increasing the student load for remaining teachers. This isn’t a vote to improve our middle-school program; it’s simply a vote to save money. It’s impossible to justify it any other way.
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