Posted by: Pronola on Jun 13, 2009
There was a news story yesterday that didn’t cause a lot of stir, but should have. The latest cuts by the Orleans Parish School Board were reported.
Currently, there are seven Board members, one for each school district of the city. Since Katrina, the number of schools they oversee has been greatly reduced. The Recovery School District runs 33 schools; independent boards operate almost 50 charter schools; and the elected Orleans Parish School Board operates five schools and oversees a dozen charter schools.
The Orleans Parish School Board knew in February that it faced a $13 million shortfall for the next school year. Since then it has been cutting and cutting. Yesterday, the latest cuts were announced, and these cut deeply into student services.
These cuts include losing 50 teachers. That’s a lot of teachers! In classrooms that already have poor student/teacher ratios, we’re now dooming students to even higher ratios in the coming school year.
Also cut was the entire PM School. This is an after-hours school devoted to helping failing students with remedial skills. Now those students will struggle even more, and are at even higher-risk for dropout. Students who can’t keep up are the first to give up.
Even more disturbing is that each of the schools will now lose its one social worker as well as academic coaches who were paid by outside grants. There will no longer be a social worker in each school to work with students and families on the myriad of problems facing them, and the students are directly affected. Families that want help with domestic issues, discipline issues, mental health issues, economic and health issues will have to seek that help elsewhere and join the growing list of clients lined up with other social service agencies. And the loss of the academic coaches coupled with the closing of the PM School is very troubling.
It is understood that there need to be cuts in the budget. The central office has been cut, but possibly not as far as it could be. Administrative tasks are necessary evils of any operation, but when administrative tasks are held up as necessary over the care of students, I question it.
And when jobs which are direct student services supported by grants, such as the academic coaches, are cut I also question it. What will those grant funds be used for now? What is more important than providing support for students who are at-risk for academic failure? From academic failure grows discipline problems; from discipline problems comes idle time from suspensions; from idle time grows criminal activity.
The School Board has started down the path of aiding and abetting the criminal activity in our city. Agreed that they are facing a monumental task with the debts accrued post-Katrina coupled with a smaller footprint and lower taxes feeding their funding. But there has to be a point where the students come before money.
I don’t have a solution. But I do know the public should be eyeing these actions much more closely than they’re looking at the Saints mini-camp reports. And that isn’t happening. Even if you have no children, or your children don’t attend schools operated by the Orleans Parish School Board, you should be following these actions. In the long run, the cuts that threaten student services will come back to bite all citizens.