The budget issues for the Fall River School Department seem never ending. After weeks of finger pointing and grandstanding it seems that the our elected leaders have just about closed the gap.
Right from the start we should have known we were in trouble. The Mayor introduced HIS plan for reducing the budget, and then various committee members introduced their plans. How come nobody seemed to be working together to come up with a plan?
So, our elected leaders seem to be close to closing the gap, but how did they do it? They picked what was most palatable from plan A, and moved on to what was most palatable from plan B. Basically, in my opinion, they looked at each plan and choose what cuts they could most easily live with. The Mayor says, this makes no sense and that it's like trying to assemble a picture using pieces from different jigsaw puzzles. I have to agree with him.
I have deep fears that a few months from now we'll be revisting this issue. I have deeper fears about the next fiscal year when there is nothing left to cut!
I've already suggested that they start from scratch and build the budget from the needed essentials out. I've also suggested that the budget just may not be enough to achieve our goals. Instead of figuring out what we need and how much it will cost, our school officials keep chipping away to meet a number that is simply what the Mayor dictates.
Okay, if we're not going to compare our costs to that of similar districts, if we're not going to zero budget, if we're not going to look for ways to increase the school budget, what should we do?
Let's start by revisiting the foreign language requirement at Durfee. This was something voted in place just a few short months ago. The idea is college bound children need to have 2 years of foreign language and that every Durfee graduate should have that. Great idea, but we can't afford it. We need to focus on efforts and money on the core subjects (English, Math, Science, Social Studies). We should reverse that vote and make cuts to foreign language. If some foreign language is dictated by law, then we provide only what is required. We should then cut foreign language at the middle school level. Again, I understand the benefit, but we need to focus on the essentials. Having a child speak Spanish is not helpful if he can't pass Science.
Next we need to cut after school sports. I KNOW that people will just hate the thought of that. However, we have about 10,000 children in our schools and the vast majority do not participate in after school sports. I understand the benefit. I understand the positive aspect this has in the lives of many of these children, but we can't afford it. Having a child play football is not as important as having him pass Math. Still I think school sports is a positive thing for students and for the school and for the community. Perhaps the community at large could step up and provide funding for school sports to continue.
We need to increase the bus routes to the 2 mile radius that I believe is required by the state. If we did that we might be able to save some money on transportation costs. We also need to make sure that children our attending the schools closest to where they live. If they're not, and it's because of parental choice, we should not be providing those students with busing.
We need to look at the music program. Much like after school sports, this is a program that I think has great value but only benefits a small portion of our student body. We should either cut the program, reduce the program, or find other funding sources.
I think we need to consider cutting the Gifted and Talented program. Again, I think this is beneficial. I think it's something we should want. But it's not something we can afford.
We need to focus our resources and our money on making sure we're providing the basic, essential education that every child is required to have. We should not be making cuts such as cutting classroom teachers, that hurt the ability to provide those crucial educational foundation that life long learning is based on.