Sunday, September 26, 2010

Don’t cheat the kids

Hi everyone,

The West Bend school district's annual meeting is Monday. Like last year, a group of anti-school anti-tax anti-publicly-funded-anything activists will be making an appearance to argue that there's more fat to cut from the desiccated skeletal remains of the district budget.

There's a name for people like this: civic adolescents.

It's time for the grown-ups stand up to them. The silent majority in my little town isn't conservative or liberal -- they're just silent -- they need to get in the game and speak up for their kids.

Saturday's column.

Don’t cheat the kids
At least show up for annual district meeting

I’m lucky this year. My classrooms are full, as usual, and – as usual – full of darned fine students. In fact, I’m lucky most years. Why is that? Because the teachers and parents in the West Bend school district produce great kids and darned fine students, that’s why.

The truth is, we all have good reasons to feel lucky, even now when the state funding formula threatens the quality of education everyone’s worked so hard to create. For five years running, Newsweek has ranked West Bend high schools among the top 5 percent in the entire country. We’re still one of the most cost-effective districts in Wisconsin and we still have one of the very lowest tax rates in the state; taxes are even lower now than they were in 1993.

All the numbers shout that we’re getting huge bang for our buck and, best of all, the district is creating great students. I know because I’m lucky enough to see hundreds of them every year. We can be proud and hopeful about the future for these students.

But only if we refuse to let it be taken away from them.

The school district’s annual meeting is scheduled for this Monday night at 7 p.m. in the East High School auditorium with the budget hearing set for 6:30 p.m. The School Board has to make some tough decisions and they need your help.

Maybe you’ve never been to a school district meeting, or maybe you have been and all of that angry political noise made you wish you’d stayed home. West Bend seems to have its share of angry anti-school activists these days, all of them screaming for your kids’ programs to be cut in the name of their antitax political ideology. But no kid in West Bend should be the victim of ideology – whether it’s my belief that we have an moral responsibility to prepare kids to compete against China and India or the ideological conviction of the anti-school activists who believe it’s even wrong to spend public money on public education.

No kid should be penalized because adults get into arguments about politics.

So, forget about all of that. Forget the signs and the overly political arguments you don’t even care about. At the end of the day there’s only one thing that you do care about: your kids.

Woody Allen, back when he was still making funny movies, once wrote that “90 percent of life is showing up.” You need to come to the meeting Monday night and show up for your kids.

The district, as you know, is being squashed by cuts in state funding and, especially, by the trick of diverting funding into a school levy “tax credit” which, as my grandma used to say “robs Peter to pay Paul.” It looks like tax relief and, on paper, looks like continued funding to the school district, but it’s all for show – by taking that money out of the funding stream and away from the schools, members from both parties in Madison have set things up to cheat your kids out of the kind of education that made this one of the best performing districts in the state.

Everything except core educational programs have now been cut, so now is the time you have to come in, ignore the political noise, and stand up for your kids rights to the same level of educational excellence the district delivered last year, and the year before that.

A small and vocal group of program-cutting activists keeps insisting that they love their kids too – but you don’t demonstrate that by taking away the right of every kid to a complete education: to band, or football, or art, or foreign languages, or advanced math classes, or by cutting the gifted-and-talented programs. You don’t make a better life for your children by cheating them out of the best education we can afford.

But again, 90 percent of life is showing up. Whether one side of the political debate is louder than the other or manages to score more debating points – or whatever – none of these things matter in the face of what you really care about: your kids.

On Monday night show up and stand up for your kids. If you do, no one will be able to cheat your kids out of the education they deserve, an education you’ve worked so hard to provide.



Free Lunch said...

The previous generations educated us. If we refuse to pay for the education of the next generations, we are thieves.

As our dearly deluded Ron Johnson might need it explained to him, society is like a Ponzi scheme. You need to bring the next group in so they can pay to let you out. Without educated children, no one will be available to help the old. Even the richest Scrooge will suffer.

Deekaman said...

So we should continue to throw more money at a failing system? We've been throwing money at it for my lifetime and it just gets worse. Part of my job consists of teaching manufacturing skills to kids who come out of YOUR schools. Many of them lack basic reading and comprehension skills, are unable to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Mechanical skills? Non-existent. The closest they come is the ability to turn on their latest video game.

The US is non-competitive because our schools turn out kids who are indoctrinated in the latest political correctness. Those who are not college material are left to "swing". And you want more money? Fat chance.

But hey, when they get out of school, I'll do your job for you. Enjoy your 30-and-out.

Kraig said...

I almost always disagree with your comments but I typically respect the research you put into your articles.

In Saturday's rant, however, you allowed your personal motivtions to cloud your responsibility to present factual information. It is easy to make your point if you simply make-up scenarios and present them as fact.

To say that everything but core classes have been cut is an extreme exaggeration.

Although they sound like fun, I hardly think Ceramics, Film as Social Criticism, and Multicultural Culinary Skills qualify as 'Core Educational Skills'.

Regardless, I don't believe fewer choices for students will increase their educational experience. Clearly, at this point, the number of classes we offer will not fix our funding may help a little.

The district's problems are large enough that attacking one side of the balance sheet is not enough. More money is not the answer without reducing spending....not freezing spending not smaller increases...reducing.

Everyone knows how to solve the problem, there is no secret. Organizations both larger and smaller than our District have worked through more difficult situations than this.

Unfortunately, as long as one side of the equation continues to win with tax increases and our Board continues to operate the way they have, the motivation for adult conversation regarding the situation will not occur in earnest.

Sidenote........we now offer both English Literature AND British Literature. Are they both Core Classes ?

Kevin Scheunemann said...

"Caring about kids" includes abolishing the public school monopoly and turn schools loose to compete on merit.

MPS having a less than 50% HS graduation rate says it all about the failure of the "public" to run public schools.

Public schools have one distinct and obvious failure everywhere, even in West Bend: EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY! Had this been done, we could be teaching kids by best teachers in nation over the web or computer networks vs. funding the health and pension plans of unions.

Even the UW system seems to embrace this....partly because professors don't have a backwards, anti-child union.

sofa said...

""Caring about kids" includes abolishing the public school monopoly and turn schools loose to compete on merit." -Kevin

Agree. Long overdue.