I attended the Dekalb County schools budget meeting with Tonna, the parent of one of Rollie’s classmates. We got there and were amazed at the number of police and news crews. Parents, dressed in red to show their support for their kids’ educational programs, were everywhere. Most of the teachers were wearing black to protest the budget cuts. We went in and sat down, started talking to other parents. It was sad to hear how far-reaching these cuts would be, how it would affect Montessori programs, magnet programs, pre-k programs, special Ed, the Arts, music, and P.E., and it was heartening to see how many parents actually care.
We sat with some other parents from our own school. Before the meeting, people were allowed to sign up for a chance to speak for two minutes, with 30 people getting slots for a total of one hour. The hour went by quickly, though, with parents, teachers, and citizens concerned over their property values carefully and respectfully laying out their arguments against cutting schoolhouse programs. There were some tears, and there were some sharp points made concerning the size and cost of the central office, but i was amazed at everyone’s civility. (Needless to say, I did not speak.)
Some Arguments for not cutting educational programs:
- Detrimental to children currently using these programs.
- Makes little sense to scrap programs, such as Montessori, that Dekalb has so recently spent funds on improving. Would be throwing away those investments in the programs.
- Treatment of teachers will drive away good educators, and fail to bring new ones into the county schools.
- Right now, these programs are a draw for people to move into Dekalb County. (a point that hits home for Todd and I since we specifically moved to our current location less than two years ago to take advantage of the wonderful elementary my son attends). Scrapping these programs would mean that families would no longer be drawn by the programs, and in fact, many families will consider leaving the area for better educational opportunities. This exodus would likewise impact property values and the viability of our county schools for years to come.
This last point seemed to me the most salient: We should not throw away the future of our county to make stopgap budget cuts; there are other ways to make budgetary cuts that will not negatively impact education and property values in Dekalb County for so many years in the future.
Across the board, parents and teachers alike seemed to agree that the Board needs to look to the central office for their budget cuts. I have been looking for specific numbers on what the central office administration costs are and have had trouble finding those numbers. I have been told by word of mouth, though, that there are hundreds of administrators at this level making over $100,000. It seems ludicrous to be paying salaries like this when we have a budget shortfall.
I know one area they can certainly make cuts with little effect to our childrens’ education: The Magnet Office. I have had the opportunity to interact with them on an issue with getting my son into the Magnet program, along with following up with the director of that program on improving the processes and procedures for Magnet lottery in the future. Please believe me when I say that one Magnet official cannot screw up the lottery process any more significantly than two have managed to do already. These folks are inept and are not earning whatever salary it is they make already. I am sure that this ineptitude is spread throughout the central office in many different scenarios.
One final note: After the meeting last night, a group of four Evansdale parents (myself included) went up to Paul Womack, our Board of Education representative. We wanted to introduce ourselves, and let him know that Evansdale parents are concerned about our programs being cut. Mr. Womack was polite and took the time to speak with us. Other parents voiced their concerns. He listened. I asked him to please, “just do the right thing for our kids.”
His reply? “No, I will not do ‘the right thing.’ I will do what is right. There’s a difference, you know. You think about it.”
Are you kidding me? That is the most bullsh*t politician-speak i have ever heard!
He then proceeded to tell me and the three other women i was with that we were coming at this from “an emotional standpoint.” Sir, why don’t you just come out and call us hysterical women? Really? Really, Mr. Womack? I am sorry if I am getting a little emotional about threats to my child’s educational opportunities, and my property values. I am sorry if I get a little emotional when I think of folks making over a $100,000/year, while I see the programs in my child’s school possibly being cut.
I told him that we wanted to see the top-heavy central office experience cuts before they cut out our kids’ programs. I told him that we understood that in hard times, hard decisions had to be made, but that cuts they make to our school programs would be much more palatable if we also saw that central office was giving up plenty too. He assured me that we would see large central office cuts. I will be watching for those. And if I don’t see them, Mr. Womack? Don’t worry. I will do my darnedest to stay unemotional when I go to the polls in 2012.
Videos from last night’s meeting: