Monday, August 18, 2003

School budgets, oversight, and where we're headed

In a recent post to Maplewood Online, Zoe says he/she is convinced that there's lots of money being wasted by the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education and that the new (post Vic 'n Jerry) Board of School Estimate should root it out.

I know most of the people on the BoSE and the School Board, I've read the school district's budget, I've been on the CBAC's Schools Committee, and I'm not the least bit convinced that there is any significant waste at all. Quite the contrary, in fact - the schools are quite efficient - just chronically short of funds for ongoing programs.

What Zoe and his/her ilk NEVER do is back their convictions with any numbers. So, a challenge for Zoe - on what do you base your claims, besides a desire to not pay taxes. Specifics, please. If you should read this, and respond, I'll be happy to post it, sans editorial comment (though I reserve the right to rebut :-) )

My fear is, if we go down the path Zoe wants (a road too many others have already taken), we'll end up with schools like this(via Kevin Drum's CalPundit):
Bridget Green, the valedictorian of Alcee Fortier Senior High School in Louisiana, failed to graduate because she couldn't pass the high school graduation exam.

The nickel version of the story is that she received an A in her Algebra 2 class and top grades in the rest of her subjects, but failed the math portion of the graduation test. You can check out sample questions from the test here.

This is all bad enough � how could someone who failed a 10th grade level math test get an A in algebra? � but I'd like to focus on one other aspect of this affair. Here are a couple of quotes from the Times-Picayune story:

Principal Harvey Cyrus: "I was shocked. I just can't understand it."

Karen Alexander, Green's guardian: "How were we to know that anything was wrong, that she wasn't going to pass this test?"
If anything, our schools need MORE money, not less but, given the onerous (and stupid) system of school funding via property taxation, I'm afraid it ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

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