District 51 doesn’t deserve F for cuts
No one we’ve heard is happy with the cuts proposed by the School District 51 Board of Education a week ago. Nor should they be.
Who wants to see 23 more teachers cut from the classrooms? Or reduction in the money available for classroom supplies? Or significantly higher fees for athletic participation? When childhood obesity is a national epidemic, who wants to see positions for physical education teachers slashed in our middle schools?
But it is simply wrong to suggest — as some members of the public and letter writers to this newspaper have done — that the administration of District 51 and the school board don’t care about students or their education. Or that they’re only interested in protecting some mythical empire of administrators who sit around doing little or nothing.
Anyone who has watched, even peripherally, the past few years as the district has had to carve more money out of each year’s budget knows that’s not the case. Administrators and board members worked initially to make only cuts that would have minimal impact on the classroom. Administrative positions have been cut repeatedly, even though the district has long had among the smallest administrative staffs, proportionately, in the state.
Meanwhile, District 51, along with other districts in the state, has had to assume new responsibilities mandated by state law. This includes things like teacher and principal evaluations, along with test monitoring and reporting. Just in the past few months, the Legislature passed new reading and reporting requirements to be imposed on every school district.
All of these mandates require additional administrative time. The alternative is for teachers to take time away from classroom instruction to fulfill the new rules.
None of this is to say that we agree with everything the district proposed to do to meet its revenue projections.
For one thing, we believe it would have made sense to close schools where the student populations have dropped precipitously, rather than keep them open just to alleviate community angst.
Furthermore, as a letter on this page demonstrates, there is a dispute between some school board members and members of the Mesa Valley Education Association about just how large a role the latest contract with the district’s teachers played in the current round of cuts.
Even so, we understand these are difficult decision that are guaranteed to make many people angry. And we believe the administration and school board members are attempting to make these decisiont while keeping at the forefront what they believe are the best interests of students and the community.
They don’t deserve the failing grade that so many people in the community seem eager to assign to them.