Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thoughts on the LCPS Budget

I have kept myself informed on this year's budget process as it has bounced back and forth between the Loudoun County School Board and the Board of Supervisors. I have either watched the proceedings live or on the webcast and have read the local papers and many of the local blogs. In my opinion, this article in Leesburg Today is the best summary of the most recent School Board meeting.

And here are my thoughts, in no particular order, on what has and hasn't happened:

FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary School) - Little Dude is finishing the fifth grade, so he has had the opportunity to experience the entirety of this enrichment program throughout his time in elementary school. And I'm glad that he has had this opportunity. Is the program perfect? No, it's not. I don't like not having the chance to meet his teacher or to have access to the syllabus; I don't know if they are learning the language and culture of Spain (a total waste) or of Mexico and Central America (a more practical application). But he denies that it has been the same every year: "We learned about insects this year." He came home with a test that none of us knows if it was a real test or a practice test and only got one answer incorrect. But the picture of the little girl holding a dog gave away the answer to one of the questions. I do wonder about the attention of the children, but it doesn't sound like they are misbehaving. He knows more of a second language at eleven years old than either of our older kids knew at fourteen. Fix it and keep it.

JV Lacrosse: If there is a varsity program, there should be a JV program.

Freshman sports: When did this become more important than high school summer school? If there is a choice between the two, the SB picked the wrong one, but I'll get to summer school in a few minutes. Am I the only one who sees that the natural compromise is to have freshman sports WITHIN THE COUNTY? Aren't we going to have 11 high schools this fall? Can't we keep the games in the county and eliminate all the transportation costs by having the players report to the various fields at specific times? Chairman Stevens may see this as micromanaging, but I see it as compromise.

Gifted and Talented and Special Education: I am sooooo relieved that these parents were not pitted against each other, especially since there are children who are in both. THANK YOU!

Shared Principals at the 4 smallest schools: It sounds like there are two principals who are retiring, so this might work out without some weird arrangement.

Reading Specialists: Now come on, how can anyone reasonably say that we are all about educating the county's children and then propose to cut reading specialists. Reading is the single most fundamental skill that our children are taught. Glad that common sense prevailed.

SAT Prep classes: Ms Giggles took this class, probably when she was a junior and the writing part of the SAT was new. It stunk! Half of getting an above average score is understanding how the test itself is scored and this information was never relayed to the students - you can't guess on this test as you are scored down for wrong answers. If you can't have a class that truly addresses the strategy of successfully taking this test then you have no business offering it AT ALL! You are only raising the hopes of students and parents to offer any class to any student that is only about content. Charging for this is sinful. DUMP IT!

Subsidizing School Lunch Costs: I am not talking about low income students who get free or reduced price lunches, every child needs a minimum level of calories to learn. But why are we reducing the cost of these high fat meals for students who can pay full price? OUR CHILDREN WOULD BE HEALTHIER IF THEY BROUGHT A BAG LUNCH!

Larger Class Sizes: There are particular schools and/or specific grades in even the crowded schools that this will not effect due to the numbers of students per grade. But at Seldens Landing, currently the largest elementary school in the county, this will be awful for some grade levels. Unless and until the decision makers have visited all of the classrooms that currently have 28 students, they should not be allowed to increase it to 29 students. Funny, I haven't seen ANY school board members at Seldens this year! THIS IS THE WORSE DECISION OF THE YEAR!

Assistant Athletic Trainers: Unfunding this was way overdue!

Summer School: First of all, let's get one thing straight - Extended School Year for special education students IS NOT SUMMER SCHOOL. ESY is legally required for specific individual students who will have very serious set backs with a twelve week break, or for that matter, it may even be the two weeks of winter break. I do not feel that it is required of me to give examples of the students who require these services as this is a very personal, confidential and necessary decision for the families involved. Little Dude has a learning disability and our team spent less than a minute deciding that he did not require this level of support. The majority of special ed students do not participate in ESY.

But that does not mean that there are not elementary students who are below grade level in a specific academic area (reading or math) that require extra academic assistance to enter the upcoming year on par with their peers. The elimination of the early back program will affect the reading and math scores of dozens of students in each elementary school. Or more students will be repeating grades than have in the past. Thanks for nothing.

Middle School Summer School: Well it was torturous how we finally got funding for this necessary program, but as the night wore on, it became clear that somehow it was going to be funded. Thank Heavens! But it shouldn't have been so hard.

High School Summer School: And the first citizens that need to enroll are sitting on the dais! Not funding and providing for high school summer school will affect our on time graduation rate, drop out rate and eventually our status among college admissions offices. How do you propose a student who fails a math or science or English class makes that up? If they have failed math or science as a sophomore they can't take both the 10th grade and the 11th grade levels the next year - they didn't learn enough the first time through to be successful taking both the following year! This requires another compromise: provide actual summer school classes for students who made D's or F's in their (non-elective) classes. Students who are taking classes for enrichment purposes can take them online.

I have more to add, but it's too late to do it tonight.