What is the best way to trim the district's budget?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Caesar753, Feb 11, 2010.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Feb 11, 2010

    We got this email from our superintendent. He's asking for recommendations for ways to cut the budget. What ideas do you guys have? I'd like to give him some really great ideas.

    :)



    Based on the Governor’s State of the State address and on recent discussions I have had with the Governor, his staff, and legislative leaders, it is clear that the District must prepare for additional significant funding reductions. We won’t know precise amounts until after the Special Session of the Legislature concludes later this month, but I believe that reductions for our District, from now through the end of next school year, will likely exceed $100 million – and that is on top of the $253 million we have already cut since 2008.

    Since all of us who work for the District will feel the cuts in some way, I welcome your suggestions for reducing or eliminating expenses. To accomplish this, a temporary e-mail address has been established so that you may submit your ideas via e-mail.

    Before sharing your suggestions, please consider the following points:


    • We are an educational organization and our mission is instruction. As we impose reductions, my priorities are to protect programs for students to the greatest extent possible and to protect jobs for employees. Neither of these will go untouched, but I am hoping for the least impact possible in both areas.

    • Responses will not be tallied like votes. Each idea will be reviewed on its own merits regardless of the number of times it is submitted.

    • Many employees have already written to recommend a four-day workweek. It is not necessary to resubmit this suggestion.

    • No suggested savings will be too small to consider.


    • Positions may be recommended for elimination, but not individuals, since reductions in force will be implemented as prescribed in contract.

    • The District will work as appropriate and necessary with bargaining units to explore suggestions that require changes in negotiated agreements.

    There are many nuances to funding that employees may not be aware of, such as mandatory state or federal expenditures, grant fund vs. general fund expenditures, statutory limitations on bond fund use, subjects of mandatory bargaining, and many other factors outside of our control. However, I believe that your insights and recommendations will be instructive, and I look forward to hearing from you. Over the course of the next several weeks, you may send your suggestions via email, addressed to “Savings.”

    Please know that your input and support continue to be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your constructive ideas.
     
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  3. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    Our school, and actually our whole district, has saved a boatload of money by shutting down our computers, turning off our monitors, turning off our printers, and unplugging electrical things every night. It's a pain to turn them on every morning, but once our tech teacher showed us the $ amount that we were saving, we all jumped on board. Now, it's a district mandate, so they are saving money at the district offices, too.
     
  4. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    Also, unless it's for something superofficial, we use "recycled" paper in our printers. You know, those copies that you accidentally made too many of, or you end up not using, someone on your team already copied for you...flip them over and stick them in your printer.
     
  5. leighbball

    leighbball Virtuoso

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    I like smurfette's suggestions. We have a timer on all of our computers and I'm sure it saves money since they shut off every night automatically.

    Our district is trying to go green by posting more things online and sending less paper flyers home. I don't know if that's a possibility for you.
     
  6. MissSkippyjonJones

    MissSkippyjonJones Comrade

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    Our district did a survey about what workbooks in our extensive LA program are rarely used. They then decided to stop printing those books. They also stopped creating individual workbooks for each child and instead made large pads with enough of each page for the teacher to pull apart and pass out as needed. This saved on printing and space in the classroom/libraries.
     
  7. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    As far as turning off electrical items, if they are plugged into a power strip, the strip can be turned off...the Today Show said 40% in a home....just imagine in 35 to 40 classrooms. I think 40% is a lot, but who knows.
     
  8. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    In our district we could save money by using plastic trays in the cafeteria...not the throw away kind...I HATE THAT!
    Also we could save money by closing our gyms to the public after school.
    We could also save money by not having 3-4 basketball games a week.
     
  9. midwestteacher

    midwestteacher Cohort

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    I worked for a district that bought paper that was slightly off white, like a cream color. They said it was cheaper because of the bleach that is used to make white paper white. For a large district, even a couple of bucks a box would be significant savings.
    If you leave your classroom - turn off the lights! I can't tell you how many times I walk by a totally empty classroom with every light on.
    Computers, etc should be shut down at night and not left on stand-by.
    Some larger districts have banned personal fridges and microwave in teacher offices, instead providing ones in the teacher's lounge that can be used.
     
  10. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    I was going to suggest this, as it's a policy in our district, too, but it hasn't been enforced strongly. I didn't suggest it because I love having my microwave!:whistle:
     
  11. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    We have automatic lights. We are not allowed to use personal appliances in our classrooms anymore. We use old reams of computer paper (the kind with tear away holes) for kids to draw instead of white paper.

    You could put a code on the copier to reduce the number of copies per teacher.
     
  12. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    Depending on the roads by your school this may not be possible, but you could cut transportation cost by increasing the distance a student must live from the school to get transportation. In my district if you live within a mile of the school you don't get a school bus. So if more students walk, you could use less buses and less drivers. Although that of course is bad news for the bus drivers whose jobs would be cut, but it doesn't impact the education of the students. Well, that is unless they decide walking to school is too much of an effort and cut school more!

    I agree with the advice of a copier code so that each teacher has a limited amount of copies.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    What a great superintendant!!!! Not only does he want your input, but he's stated that protecting jobs and programs are his two priorities!!! Please remember to thank him on both counts.

    -Textbooks: can you go a year with the ones you're using now? I would imagine that the cost of a new set of textbooks is significant. Can some grades/classes drop a workbook here and there?

    - Paper use-- can teachers cut down on newsletters, or let parents sign up for the email version instead of printing them out? Can the district streamline the stuff sent home? I know that very often I get 3 copies of particular memos, one per child. Couldn't notices go home only with the oldest child in each family?

    - Are there any capital improvement projects that could be tabled for a year?

    - Do you currently recycle paper? Is there a recycling company that would let you but a box in each classroom then pay you for the paper you generate? Do you recycle plastics? We have big bins in the cafeteria for water bottles now that NY charges a nickel deposit on them.
     
  14. Mr D

    Mr D Comrade

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    Feb 11, 2010


    On the subject of transportation, one district I used to work in cut a lot (I can't remember exactly how much) of transportation expenses one year simply by changing school start and end times for elementary and high school. And it was only a few minutes. The elementary times were moved to five minutes earlier and high school was five minutes later. By shifting these times, they were able to reduce the number of busses needed.
     
  15. futureteach21

    futureteach21 Habitué

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    Our district just sent out a survey to be filled out for the exact same reason. They asked our opinion on cutting transportation, salary cuts (1 percent or 3 percent), cutting sports in middle school, eliminating high school elective courses, eliminating low participation sports, increasing student fees in high school, charging for transportation, furlough days. We also had to prioritize what costs were most important to us ranging from teacher recruitment to lawn mowing. Maybe that long list would give you some ideas
     
  16. HeatherY

    HeatherY Habitué

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    We took pay cuts and furloughs. I suggest not doing that. What about asking parents or businesses to donate paper or office supplies to the school? And extending the time beween the lawn being mowed. Also, getting volunteers to do lunch duty if you have paid staff doing it.
     
  17. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Our union has just surveyed us, basically saying we're going to have cuts next year -- they just want to know how we want it to hurt before they go in to negotiations. The main things under discussion are work reduction days vs. across the board percentage cuts in salary.

    Our district starting doing an energy reduction a couple of years ago, and the savings were passed back to the sites. My HS got back $28,000 last year! Unfortunately, the district will be keeping that next year, but it shows how much little things like turning off the lights, powering everything down, etc. will save. At winter break and at the end of the school year we also have to clean out the fridge in our workroom and unplug it.
     
  18. Rebecca1122

    Rebecca1122 Comrade

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    This may not be a popular option with parents but pay to play sports is a way to save money. My school district did that when I was in high school. Basically, athletes have to pay to participate in sports instead of everything being free. This was also suggested in a school board meeting I recently went to for the district I am living in now as a money saver.
    Although my high school/district was upper to middle class, so parents could afford to have their kids pay to play. This might not be possible in a low SES district (not sure what your situation is).
     
  19. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    What is the problem with this solution? Does it not save the money it seems it would? I know that it's not a precedent that you want to set (teachers taking pay-cuts when things get tough), but... all that other stuff seems like small potatoes by comparison.
     
  20. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    John Lee, I don't think it's fair to expect teachers to carry the burden of the state's budget woes. Why should our families suffer so that other families don't?

    If the district insists on a pay cut, I think it's only fair that they shorten the school year. If they're going to cut my pay by 5%, then they better give me the equivalent in days off. That would be fair. Pay me for what I work. Please don't ask me to work the same amount for less pay.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    This is an unpopular idea for several reasons. (And for the record, neither my kids nor my spouse or I are athletes.)

    For starters, it opens the chasm between the "haves" and the "have nots"-- a chasm unlikely to be closed once the financial difficulties are over.

    Also, there are some kids for whom sports is the only way they'll ever get a college education. It puts college totally out of reach for those kids whose parents simply will never have the money to pay for it.

    But, more importantly, it puts a LOT of teenagers on the streets at night and in the afternoons with nothing to do-- not at all popular with parents or property owners. It has the potential for bringing down property values and, as a result, decreasing the number of people who will vote in favor of a school budget.

    It opens the door to a downward spiral that many Superintendents simply don't want to approach.
     
  22. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    I totally agree with Aliceacc regarding sports. Although it may seem like a good thing to cut, it is NOT. Many kids get good grades and stay in school only because they want to be eligible for sports. Keeping teenagers busy can not be underestimated. Ditto for drama, music, etc.

    We have cut hard in our school district - the adult school and categorical programs have taken the largest hit (35%), as well as classified staff (5 furlough days and proposed 5% cut). They are now negotiating with the union for the teachers to take a pay cut - everyone else has. The union says no, of course, but the rumor is the school district has told them it won't be optional and are willing to face a walk out, fire and rehire. Sounds like it could get ugly.

    Copying has been cut drastically, there is a hiring freeze for everyone not a classroom teacher, class size is being increased, projects put off, schools closed for periods during vacations and no one allowed in so there is no electrical usage, no new textbooks, no staff development, proposed reduction in school year, reduction in the number of vice principals, supplies cut, etc.
     
  23. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    Agreed. I had three students last term that I regularly had to get back on track due to chatting about football. They all had fine grades (not the best, but none were Ds or Fs) so I usually cut them some slack as they did seem to be able to chat and still get their work done. Anyway, one day they were particularly off and I said something to the effect of, "Can you just stop the football talk and focus on your class work for a moment here!!" One of them looked at me said, "I hear you Mrs. A, I'll get it done, but you gotta understand football's the only reason I'm at school each day and bothering to pass my classes." In other words, this kid would easily be a drop out of school if not for football.

    So yes, cutting sports to save money seems like a good idea, but there are definite consequences to it.
     
  24. MissSkippyjonJones

    MissSkippyjonJones Comrade

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    Our district stopped providing meals or snacks at trainings last year. This saved a lot of money and a lot of food from being wasted!
     
  25. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Well, I'm not saying I *definitely* think that it should be done. I'm just saying.. because I'm guessing that teacher salaries equal the largest expense; and turning off power or stopping providing snacks seems to be a small drop in the bucket. Teacher salaries were established in a different era than what we face today. (I'm coming from the P.o.V. that the current downturn in our economy is not a momentary blip; but more, a permanent change in standard of living.)
     
  26. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    If I were paid excessively, I might agree. As it is, I believe that I'm grossly underpaid for the job I do. Valet parking attendants in this town make more than I do...like TWICE what I make. Now, obviously I'm happy with my chosen career, even in spite of the low pay....But that doesn't mean that I'm willing to work for less than I already do. I'm not willing to take a pay cut without some extra benefit given to me in place of the money I would make.

    Of course salaries are the biggest expense. Let's talk about administrative pay, though. Do you have any idea what an administrator makes compared to a teacher? I'm sure that my principal makes at least three times what I make, easy. Dump a handful of "principals on special assignment" (office job) and save dozens of teaching positions.
     
  27. guest_teacher

    guest_teacher Rookie

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    A locally-funded early retirement incentive can generate savings in the hundreds of thousands. Take a look at the pay scale for your district and calculate the spread between the lowest and highest salaries. Any retirement incentive less than that amount will yield a net savings.

    In my district, the spread is so great that 3 junior teachers can be hired for every 2 senior teachers who retire, with enough money left over to provide incentives worth $25,000 to each of the retirees.

    One district came up with a neat solution to the potential brain drain problem: in return for receiving early retirement incentives, the retirees must commit to providing a small number of training hours during the next year. Presumably, lesser incentives could be offered to those who declined.

    The cynic in me sees a different, but related, opportunity to cut salary costs: to make the work environment so unpleasant that very few teachers would want to stay more than a year or two, and that only inexperienced teachers would be willing to accept jobs in the district. But wait..."recruitment over retention" sums up my district's actual human resource management philosophy! :(
     
  28. HeatherY

    HeatherY Habitué

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    The pay cut was not a big deal for me, but for many teachers here their spouse had lost a job at the same time, so it was very hard. We furlough just about every week. Our school week is now 4 days- actually 3.75 because the kids go home early on Wednesday. It is just not possible to keep up with curriculum in the same way. And I think it is teaching the kids a bad lesson: when times get hard, cut education. Is that what we want them to learn? If they are having trouble funding college they should just quit and not look for better solutions? I wish our district had thought to implement energy savings plans. I could certainly turn off the AC and get some fans, but no one is asking me to do that.
     
  29. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    A principal at a high school - Chicago, I think? - several years ago was given purse strings to finance own school. She saved $30,000 by ordering texts directly from the publishers versus through the district - cost of storing in warehouse, delivery trucks, drivers etc. . When she asked publishers why they had not suggested to the district delivering directly to schools would save money response, "Because no one asked."
     
  30. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    I also think it's remarkable your Super is consulting the faculty for suggestions! It's easier to swallow cuts as well if it was your idea! :)

    Our copy paper bill was dramatically decreased this year just by locking up the paper. A copy clerk makes the copies for us and only she can do it. If someone is asking for an exorbitant amount of copies, she will take it to the P for approval. People have relied more on their Elmo's and used much less paper.

    Also, a lot of reading and math programs have things like their TE's, kids' workbook pages, etc. online. Instead of purchasing a whole series, you can choose which to print and just read it online. Our curriculum is that way too, district has saved a lot in printing costs.
     
  31. Samothrace

    Samothrace Cohort

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    My first thought, which is what many people have said is loosing the power! Even when things are plugged in they are eating up electricity. It drives me nuts seeing 1) rooms with no one in them and the lights on 2) and this was just at my school..the sink in one of the student bathrooms was stuck on, not dripping, but on for almost 2 months at the beginning of the school year! Everytime I walked by all I could think of were all the people in the world who die each day b/c they don't have water!

    Being less wasteful for sure! I work at two different buildings in my urban district. I can't tell you how many things I get twice from the district that just go right in the 'trash'. At my one building they have a recyling fund rasier. I'm not sure on the money it has generated. This building started it last year. We have a dumpster in the parking lot..and every room in the building, office and a few places in the hallways have old paper ream boxes that some of the kids decorated..and every so often you'll see some of the 5th graders going around to collect up the boxes to put in the dumpster. To me this is not only teaching out kids to recycle, but helping the finacial situation as well.

    Of course being an art teacher, I would hope no art, music, or highschool elective class would be lost, highschool to elementary. Our kids need these! They aren't elective. I wouldn't have survived school without them!

    And I'm not sure if this was mentioned...but they always talk about teachers taking the paycut....what about the big wigs who live in admin. buildings that easily make double what I make, but seem to never be touched...EVER.

    All it takes is people getting creative!
     
  32. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Every time we are furloughed, so is the administration. They take a bigger cut because they are in a higher pay bracket.
     
  33. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    When I was subbing at the elementary level, I was shocked to see all the food that was thrown away. I was told that many kid's parents just accept the food vouchers, even though their kids have enough to eat at home. It's not entirely their fault, because it's not made clear to them that this is a service for the needy, not just part of the regular school program.

    So, I'd say trim the school food budget. Perhaps just offer it to kids at a certain income level (with proof of monthly income). Yet, if a child is hungry - let them eat, whether or not they have a voucher. I saw enough food thrown away to feed plenty of last minute requests.

    In addition, if the extra food trays could be taken to a local church or distribution spot (away from the children), then some hungry adults could be fed - instead of the food going into the trash.
     
  34. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    ABSOLUTELY... LET'S TALK ADMINISTRATIVE PAY.

    And this is not even an attack on principals or anything of the sort. Principals do have a challenging job--as challenging as teachers. But I never understood why the difference in pay had to be so dramatic (from teacher to principal). I mean, they don't split the atom--and we are supposedly all teachers by trade. They should still be on... if not the same pay scale, a similar pay scale.

    I'm really talking about the higher ups, including the superintendent. I probably would like to start a new thread about a superintendant's role, but these people *I'm guessing* make the most of all of us. And (I admit, I know very little of their job description) I think they should take their responsibility of where their district is today.

    Granted, their problems come from state cuts to education, but is part of their job to be on top of the current (political, economic) climate? I mean, don't they go to all these important state meetings, etc? The things that are happening today economically could have been foreseen... they didn't come out of the sky.

    So a proactive and dutiful superintendent could've steered his/her district toward a more conservative approach to things, and their district would be that much better off for it. They make the most money; yet where is the accountability for them? All I hear is that the state did this to us, etc.
     
  35. guest_teacher

    guest_teacher Rookie

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    Coupon-clipping teachers!

    This is a great idea, but it does require initiative and trustworthiness on the part of the principal and trust on the part of the school board, the superintendent and the district's administrative staff. In a good environment, these preconditions are already present!

    I would take the idea one step further by ending contract purchasing of school supplies. The principal (or a competent secretary) could monitor the weekly specials at Staples, Office Max and Office Depot and organize purchasing parties, during which teachers would buy directly, taking advantage of every available discount. Receipts would be submitted and teachers would be reimbursed or, better yet, teachers would receive gift cards (not corporate procurement cards!) in advance.

    Paradoxically, the office supply store chains charge the highest prices to their best customers -- institutional customers. Weekly ad prices never apply to institutional customers, institutional purchases do not qualify for bonus points, coupons are not accepted from institutional buyers, and rebates generally cannot be issued to institutions.

    State governments are investigating the office supply store chains for overcharging (charging more than what a contract allows), but the real problem is that many government agencies willingly accept fundamentally overpriced contracts. The fact is that nobody else pays list price!

    In my district, a case of paper bought through our contract with an office supply store chain costs $45 (not including internal overhead, such as the salary of the idiot who negotiated this generous deal). This week, I can walk in to the store and buy the same case of paper for $20. I earn bonus points, which I can redeem for future purchases. Now and then, I also receive coupons worth 25% off, through the chain's mailing list. The only catch is that I am limited to buying one unit of each sale item. My colleagues would have to act together if we wanted to supply the whole school.

    Our planning and storage practices would also have to change. We would have to buy items when they were cheap, not when we needed them. This would mean calculating yearly usage and stockpiling some items -- perhaps in some of the classrooms that are sitting empty this year. :)
     
  36. cmorris

    cmorris Comrade

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    Feb 13, 2010

    I think that a bunch of the district office personnel could go, especially in my area.
     
  37. ginac

    ginac Rookie

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    Feb 14, 2010

    ask the workers

    Ask EVERYONE who works in the buildings how they could save money. I am talking all lunch workers, bus drivers, maintenance, coaches, teachers, aides and admninstrators Do not ask a money cruncher or board member.
     
  38. mom2ohc

    mom2ohc Habitué

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    I think that cutting at the top is a fantastic idea!
     
  39. Rebecca1122

    Rebecca1122 Comrade

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    This was done in my home school district and I really didn't see the problems you have mentioned. As I said, my district was upper-middle class, and there were options made available to those who couldn't afford to pay. And wouldn't parents rather see sports getting budget cuts than academics?

    Even after pay to play was initiated in no way were there more teenagers running around with nothing to do after school. The kids that were, were the ones who were never involved in sports anyways. Property values were not decreased because of pay to play, and while we may have lost a few athletes it was nothing as drastic as this sounds.

    Remember, it's not cutting sports. We still had all of our sports teams (and because we have a lot of teams offering free sports was a high cost area). My district does very well in athletics and many, many kids on our high school play sports. As long as there are options (such as scholarships, or an option that if you are on a program such as free/reduced lunch you don't have to participate in pay to play, neither of which other people/students have to be aware of) I don't see the problem. It is a way to save money.
     
  40. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Feb 14, 2010

    I think that's the difference. By and large, the districts considering something so drastic in this economy aren't the upper middle class ones-- they tend to be the ones who are making smaller cuts. The disticts considering cutting, or pay-to-play sports, tend to be the ones with severe financial difficulties, the ones that wouldn't be able to make up the difference through fundraising.

    As to the parents preferring sports to be cut as opposed to academics, I think it depends on which parents you ask. ME?? Of course. But the parents of one of those kids who attend school mostly so they can play? Maybe not. Because for those kids, the only hope of getting the education they so desperately need is to first get them to attend school, and that means sports.

    Besides, parents aren't the only ones voting on school budgets; if they were, the budgets would be a much easier sell. Ask in any Senior Citizen community. For those people on fixed incomes, keeping kids off the streets at night is incredibly important. It has a more immediate effect on their quality of living than the electives offered in the local high school.

    I think we're both speaking in generalities of course-- there is no one-size-fits all answer to this mess. In some communities, pay-to-play is the right option. But I think that many in the decision making positions would far rather try all the other options suggested here than go that route.
     
  41. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Feb 14, 2010

    Cassie~you have gotten some fantastic ideas, and I'm glad that your Super is getting ideas directly from who it would impact. I wish our super would do that!

    John~do we ask doctors or lawyers or professional athletes to take a paycut to save money for hospitals? Teachers are professionals so we shouldn't have to take any cuts.

    Rebecca~if schools did this the drop out rate would skyrocket! I know my husband would have dropped out had it not been for baseball and his parents would have not have been able to afford to pay for him to play.
     

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