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OPINION | My perspective of MPS budget issues
MPS definitely has a budgetary problem. What caused that problem? Several factors (groups) have caused the budgetary issues facing MPS. It is not only the administration, school board, but also the parents and teachers in the district which have caused many of our financial woes.
1.Parents want what is best for their kids.
For example, parents want IB programs, gifted and talent programs, etc. The IB program is costing the district millions of dollars for startup, maintenance, exams, teacher training, and it all goes overseas to Geneva. Some of these dollars come out the general fund as well as the referendum dollars. Some are paid for by grants which have a limited life span. Are parents willing to give up IB in order to have some of the other amenities they want in the school? From what I have heard the answer is a resounding NO. In life one has to choose what is best for all and that is not happening in MPS. Look at overcrowded classrooms. Parents want to send their kids to the “best successful schools” like SW. If the boundary originally established by administration, does not allow them to go to their preferred school they raise a hue and cry to get the board to change the boundaries so that their kids can go to the “better” school. Some of them if they do not get their way threaten the district with sending their kids to charter schools, private schools or leaving the district. When they succeed we can get an overcrowded school. Active enthused parents do not want to send their kids to a poorly performing school and they, the parents, community are needed in these schools.
2. School board members also want what is best for the students.
However they need to evaluate the impact of the decisions made. For example boundary changes, selling buildings to charter schools, authorizing charter schools, removing successful programs from schools, making all schools IB, making drastic cuts to schools suddenly, without giving parents time to evaluate what is happening as well as the impact of these cuts. I mentioned above the impact of changing boundaries and IB. Some charter schools are very successful and are supposed to share their “best practices” with MPS. Some do share but are those best practices a reality for MPS with its time constraints and financial woes. To me, authorizing a charter school or leasing our buildings to charters creates a financial woe to the district. For example, charters sometimes use only a portion of an entire building, meaning that MPS has to maintain the rest of the building and make sure that the charter school is keeping up MPS standards for maintenance. In addition charters pull MPS kids out of the system and thus reduce the revenue from these kids to help defray the cuts that are now currently in progress and potentially cause increase in class sizes and the laying off of teachers or other staff. In the big picture I feel that this school board, the previous school boards and superintendents do not feel that MPS is capable of educating all the students that reside in MPS.
3. Administration also want what is best for educating the students.
They also need to evaluate and report the impact of their recommendations to the school board and the public. This applies to the pro and cons of every resolution. My perception of the school board applies to the administration. During the start of the strategic plan the administration created a principals group to improve the ability of the principals to lead in the school. Couple years later the administration created a different principals academy to help principals become better leaders. Now they have a 3rd principals academy and as in all the previous academies they are touting the success of these academies. Are all the principals who attended good leaders in their school. The administration has an Office of New schools. From my perspective a new school to them is a school that already exists, like a charter school. I am not sure what they consider a new school. Teacher based school could be considered a new school here in MPS.
4. Principals want what is best for educating the students.
Site base councils were initially established many years ago and were supposed to be composed of principal, teacher and parents. In some cases even students. Does every school have a site based council. If not, is the administration insisting that they create one and is the board pushing the superintendent to make sure there is one and it has the composition as established by policy. . Every site council needs to decide what they want in their school in terms of staffing. Then they need to look at the enrollment to compute how many teachers they need to meet the class size designated by the district. This will help give the school the dollar amount needed to educate their student s. Using the enrollment data the site council needs the dollars to figure out how much money will be allocated to the school from the general fund, categorical aid, federal funds, grants etc. This is the start of zero base budgeting. Schools with IB programs have to have IB trained teachers. If the school size is small, or has insufficient funds, will the school have sufficient dollars to function as it would like. If not, does the district have the dollars to subsidize the school and what choices need to be made and who will make those choices.
6. Teachers also want what is best for educating the students.
How many teachers are willing to work in a turnaround school or poor performing school. How many teachers want to work with mobile population, schools that have turnover of principals and staff. After many years of staying in one of these schools one cannot fault them for wanting to move on. To stay in that type of school requires dedication, and can easily lead to burnout. If none of the union teachers want to teach in that type of environment, whom can the district get to teach those kids. What can the district to do so that any teacher would be willing to go Are there extra cost factors dealing with turnaround schools?
Thus we all want what is best for educating our students. We all have a role to play in the budget process and school allocation. All of us have to take responsibility for our actions and for any decisions forthcoming that have an impact on the budget. All of us need to be involved in understanding the budget. and thus the education of our students .