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04/25/2010

Which Came First: The Failing Schools or The Budget Cuts?

Schoolchildren_reading_1911It was with a heavy heart that I read the news on Friday about Columbus City Schools laying-off 164 employees, 113 of them teachers. My daughter goes to a school in the district, and I'm already worried about the impact these cuts will have on her education next year. Will the classrooms be more crowded? Will there be fewer aides to help out?

The Dispatch article reported the cuts were being done to save money after losing students to charter schools and private schools. It's obvious that the school system has developed a bad reputation - they are planning for 2,500 children to leave the district for other school options over the summer alone - and the reputation isn't just based on proficiency test performance. I've heard complaints from parents who feel the schools are already overcrowded, and who are concerned that some of the older school buildings are unsafe.

While I understand the school district is a business and has to make ends meet, I question whether cutting more teachers is the answer. A school district relies on its reputation, and most of that reputation is made with excellent teachers who receive the full support of their district, enabling them to teach a manageable number of students with the proper resources. Pull out any one of those factors, and the reputation will decline rapidly.

I don't know what the answer is to getting the Columbus City Schools district - or any other struggling district - back on track, but cutting the staff doesn't seem like a smart move to me. The superintendent says this is a move to prevent asking for another school levy, since they just passed a school levy in 2008. (And leaves me wondering why they're running out of money again so quickly after we passed that large levy.)

Administrators say that students are already choosing to leave the district in high numbers, but severe cuts will only convince more parents to move their children out of what they perceive to be failing schools. With fewer students, the district receives less money, and so cuts are needed again, which makes more students leave and the process continues to spiral downwards.

My daughter has attended the district's preschool for three years now, and will start kindergarten next year. I honestly can't say for certain she'll be attending Columbus City Schools in the fall. We've considered private school, and we are also considering moving out of the district in the near future. I love her teachers, but I don't know if crowded conditions will be good for her, and even the best teacher has a limit on what he or she can do.

This is, of course, only a symptom of the larger issue of school funding in Ohio. And unless a new solution is found, I see this downward spiral pattern happening to more of the lower-income districts. I want to see the schools succeed, but I don't want my child to suffer through the "tough times" while we wait it out.

Christina can also be found rambling  at her personal blog, A Mommy Story.

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

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