The Budget Vote Was Disappointing
Dear Board Members & Superintendent
Dr. Jeff Rose, Superintendent
LeeAnn Larsen, Chair
I can only say how disappointing it was to watch you vote in favor of the proposed budget that was balanced on the back of our children. How could the majority of the Board avoid talking about what we having been asking for since the beginning? There was no explanation, only statements to say you didn’t like doing what you were about to do. However, the Board did it anyway, and you had options to do something different that would preserve programs and class room sizes.
Who is to blame?
Dr. Rose opened his prepared speech by saying this wasn’t the Board’s fault, and that the Beaverton Community should focus our energies elsewhere.
- We understand the school funding system is broken.
- We understand this is a state-wide issue.
- We understand the recent levy wasn’t successful, and could have lessened the impact.
- We understand this isn’t your fault personally.
- We believe it is YOUR responsibility to find a way to bridge the gap in times of crisis.
Instead the Board chose to take the most drastic approach of crippling beloved, viable, and enriching programs, while saddling those remaining teachers with unrealistic classroom sizes. We may all be to blame at some point, but at the last minute the Board could have chosen to make a difference.
Innovations over Preservation?
It was ironic that after hearing so many testimonials requesting that the current programs be maintained, the Board proceeded to have an extended open discussion and vote about the desire to start a new on-line course program, and begin late starts to add more time for teachers to collaborate. Teachers with classes over forty students won’t have time to work on collaboration – they will be buried with unmanageable classroom sizes and papers to grade. It wasn’t lost on the entire audience that the Board is proposing to spend money and cut class time to start new programs that don’t have a track record for improving the student’s comprehensive educational experience. This approach is not sustainable for providing quality education.
In contrast to uncharted and expensive “innovations”, we do have a track record of and know for certain the following:
- Music improves student’s emotional intelligence, self esteem, and develops them in ways that are vital for adulthood.
- Librarians improve student’s access to information, reading opportunities, and research skills – critical life skills for post-high school success.
- Reasonable class room sizes provide student’s opportunities to learn, focus, and receive the necessary attention to command a subject matter.
These programs are sustainable in the development of our children’s emotional and academic education. They are proven to make a difference
Flawed Community Involvement Process
We were very disappointed to hear the Superintendant imply he knew the cuts would be just like this as early as last Summer/Fall when he came on board. Last fall if the community had been told the proposed impacts and that class sizes would soar to 40+, that key educational development programs would be slashed, and that librarians would be eliminated, perhaps the levy would have been successful. To make matters worse, our opinions were solicited in the budget teaching sessions, yet the budget outcome does not resemble the results of the surveys and public input. Why was our time and opinion wasted on surveys, budget teaching sessions, and budget hearings if the Board already planned to cut staff levels so severely? This was a slap in the face of public process!
What is the priority in times of Crisis?
Its unfortunate the Board had community-supported options available to minimize the impacts of the deficit. Instead of trying to save a sinking ship by plugging the holes and staying the course”, the Board has chosen to pursue alternatives for new programs and innovations that distract from saving lives and getting us to safe harbor. When we have been rescued by stable funding, and are sitting in drydock for overhaul, that is the time for innovations to be explored. Why throw the children overboard in order to have more room to talk about how to build a better ship?
Disappointment wasn’t your only option
Clearly there were other options to explore, as several budget committee members could not vote for approval of the proposed budget. Even the Chair, John Burns, spoke against it at budget committee meetings and up until the very last minute at the Board Meeting on Monday. Then the final vote was not a full consensus. There may have been more pressure to approve something that very evening rather than approve the best option for our children – it was written on the face of several board members.
I personally have been involved with the development of public agency annual budgets for over 20 years. There is always the option to stay the course, provide the services of the core mission, and avoid extras that are nice but not necessary. In the Beaverton School District case, there were options that didn’t balance the budget on the back of the students. I’m very disappointed that the majority of you weren’t able to find the courage to do the right thing by staying the course with core programs at this time of crisis.
A very heartfelt “thank you” to Board Members Degman and VanderWeele for their uncommon courage to see through the tough choice, to vote intelligently, and for standing up for what is best for the students. They understand the core mission to serve the student’s best interest. For that, many hundreds of us applaud your support.
Please know we understand you have a tough job. However, the advocates for our children will continue to respectfully request that you revise the intent of the 2012-13 budget that was approved Monday. There are ways to make changes – Oregon Budget law allows options for change – with due process and public involvement and hearings. I know that advocates will continue to be fully engaged in finding a better solution for our current and future students.
(sent via email)