Letter: Supporting local schools
My frustration with Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 70 percent solution for school spending is twofold. First, the front page story in the West Central Tribune on Jan. 10, while factual in content, turned the tough job of keeping rural schools in the black i...
My frustration with Gov. Tim Pawlenty's 70 percent solution for school spending is twofold. First, the front page story in the West Central Tribune on Jan. 10, while factual in content, turned the tough job of keeping rural schools in the black into a competition between local districts. The Tribune, with its red ink "scores", rated area schools like teams in a basketball tournament. It would seem that a rural newspaper would do better to support rural schools.
On the face of it, Pawlenty's proposed 70 percent solution for school spending sounds like a win-win situation, i.e. $112 million statewide redirected to the classroom, and it won't cost taxpayers a dime. But do we know what goes into a healthy learning environment?
Principals handle discipline so teachers can teach. Kids with family problems can work with a social worker. Guidance counselors keep schools current with state-mandated testing for No Child Left Behind. Staff development coordinators help teachers get up to speed with curriculum and standards changes mandated by the state every few years. Libraries and media specialists provide teachers with resources and support for enhancing classroom curriculum. Computer technologists keep hardware and software operational and teachers up to date. ITV classrooms need technical support to allow distance learning so electives are available in rural areas.
Then we have secretaries, bookkeepers, nurses, janitors, and cooks. These employees are not luxuries for a safe, clean, healthy, and orderly environment.
Finally, our kids need buildings and heat in order to learn. And, although Pawlenty doesn't include transportation in his equation, rural districts must often spend more than they are reimbursed from the state on transportation, dipping into classroom budgets.
These costs fall disproportionately on small rural districts without the economies of scale to dilute the expense. So, the 70 percent solution is a pleasant-sounding bromide -- something more rural schools wish they were free to do. Ironically, what stands in the way of the 70 percent solution (mandate) is a laundry list of other unfunded and underfunded mandates. Local decisions for local schools would go a long way toward improving classroom instruction.