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Football or Full-Day Kindergarten?-- Budget Cuts Force Tough Choices

Football or Full-Day Kindergarten?-- Budget Cuts Force Tough Choices

Share School districts across the country are coping with the problems that arise when school funding provides less money than schools need. Which programs should stay and which can go? Does it all boil down to the squeakiest wheel? Read what some school boards have done; then share with Education World readers your own experiences with program cuts and budget battles!

At this time of year, school districts across the country are coping with the problems that arise when next year's school funding falls short of proposed school budgets. Consider these recent examples:

  • In Bloomfield, Connecticut, in an effort to deal with a nearly $2 million school budget deficit for next year, the board of education voted to eliminate all extra-curricular activities-- including varsity sports-- from town schools. Enraged parents stormed the next school board meeting, demanding that extracurricular activities be reinstated. They were -- at the expense of elementary school tutors and full-day kindergarten programs. (See Bloomfield Issues.)

    Show and Tell

    Footballs or Fairy Tales?

    In Bloomfield, Connecticut, school board vice chairman Dick Dale defended his board's decision to cut full-day kindergarten programs. "There is no fat," Dale told the Hartford Courant. "The cuts we were forced to make are real. What we tried to do was the most minimal damage."

    Has your school district faced similar decisions? How did your district arrive at its final decision? Share your thoughts at the Education World message board!

  • In Fairfax County, Virginia, school superintendent Daniel Domenech was also forced to revise his proposed list of budget cuts. Domenech originally called for an increase in class size of an average of one student per class, which could have eliminated teaching positions at each elementary school and up to five teaching positions at each of the county's high schools. Domenech's revised proposal recommends cuts in building equipment and maintenance, school bonuses, and computer purchases, instead of class size increases. (See FCPS Superintendent Revises List Of Potential Cuts.)

  • In Anchorage, Alaska, the school board recently approved an $11 million budget reduction that eliminated 176 district positions, including more than 60 full-day kindergarten aides. If approved, the cuts would also close eight community schools; eliminate high school swimming, hockey, and gymnastics; reduce textbook purchases; and eliminate the next phase of the system's technology plan. (See School Board Approves Budget Cuts.)

  • In Irvine, California, proposed budget measures for the 2000-2001 school year include the elimination of technology purchases and upgrades, K-6 art and music programs, some sports programs, guidance counselors, nurses, and librarians and an increase in class sizes. (See Why Our Schools Need Your Help.)

According to Cutting Costs and Raising Revenues, a publication of the National School Boards Association, school districts have most commonly cut costs through reducing administration and staff; reducing building maintenance, transportation costs, and textbook and technology purchases; and increasing efficient energy use, volunteer programs, and fundraising. "From instituting hiring freezes to curtailing programs; from contracting services to bringing them in-house; districts across the country have found innovative ways to operate more efficiently and effectively" without affecting the quality of the educational program, the report states.

Recent examples, however, indicate that more and more school districts are resorting to chopping entire programs rather than institute less-drastic cost-cutting measures. Perhaps the reasons for that lie more in the public outcry-- and funding increases-- that are often the result of the more drastic and controversial measures.

Linda Starr
Education World®
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