Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Get Outraged

I’m off to the PTA meeting tonight where the principal of the school is going to discuss the County’s budget crisis, the upcoming budget cuts, and how this will affect class size and staffing for next year. I have been all in a tizzy about the MCPS budget cuts, spending more time than I would care to admit researching what the class size “guidelines” are (don’t make the mistake of calling them “limits” or “maximums” because they ain’t). For all the free flow of information on the internet, it took me hours (and several emails to the superintendent’s office) to actually get a link to an actual document, and the news was not great. Unlike other states where the class size is built into teacher contracts, in Montgomery County they are merely part of the budget, another number to play with to try and cut down on costs while not paying the teachers any more money for taking on these huge class sizes.

There has been a lot of email chatter on blogs and chat lists about the impending increase in class sizes and what effect that will have on Montgomery county’s public school system. On the one hand, we consider ourselves very lucky to be in such a fantastic school system with such talented and dedicated teachers, but you can only ride those coattails so long. Put 30+ nine-year olds in a single classroom, throw a bunch of boring worksheets at them, and you better step back because no matter how good the teacher is, you are asking for trouble. Not to mention you can say goodbye to any extra resources for music, arts, etc. Suddenly, that private school option, the one with the horrifying sticker-shock price, is looking like something you might want to reevaluate.

So I was getting ready to go to this meeting, guns ablazing with my list of questions about how this affects “me” and “my kids”, and then I went to a lunch presentation at work today about charter schools in DC. Representatives from a charter school in SE came to talk to us about an elementary school they have been trying to “turn around” this past year. Before they got involved, the kids’ reading levels were at 13% of the national standard, and the math levels were at 8%. This was a school everyone had given up on – certainly, no one was complaining about class sizes, and no one was acting like they believed the kids could or should do better. The executive director asked us, if we took one thing away from this lunch, that we be “outraged” that any child would be subjected to this pathetic excuse of a public school.

So I am distressed that class sizes in our school are likely going up, and very unthrilled that staffing is likely to go down. But I’m going to save my outrage for something more meaningful.

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