Response Letter to School Board

Dear (school board member),

I am writing to express my disappointment in your vote approving the 2012-2013 budget. While I understand it was a difficult decision, I believe the facts for voting against the budget remain persuasive. The cuts in your current budget will:

•Reduce Music Specialists by 30%
•Shuffle music teachers to positions they are unprepared to teach
•Reduce most music positions to halftime

This is not acceptable—cutting music in order to increase other non-essentials is irresponsible. Replacing proven, reliable, and well-loved programs with new, untested programs is a risky path. Educational programs come and go (remember CIM and CAM?), but music has remained an important part of a well round education for centuries.

I ask that you re-open negotiations on the budget and either cut days to retain music or slow the implementation of new programs in order to retain music specialists. A single furlough day would result in the retention of all music specialists cut.

Music has been part of the Beaverton school district for fifty years, it must continue to be for the next fifty.

Additionally, Superintendent Rose, at the budget meeting on Monday, used his comment time to address those members of the public and school staff who were present and advocating for more furlough days and the retention of music teachers. I would like to respond to three points he made:

Why aren’t / weren’t those of us advocating for furlough days, lobbying Salem for more education dollars?
 
Many of us have, do, and will continue to lobby Salem. Many of us gave our time to make phone calls for the district’s levy this past November. We are strong advocates for the schools and fully understand that any long-term solution requires the cultivation of a stronger source of revenue. The implication that we are complainers who gripe at the board, but are unwilling to fight for the long-term success of our schools is false.

The budget and its effects are not Superintendent Rose’s fault. They are the result of under-funding and are decisions forced by this reality.
 
It is true that the district was horribly under-funded by Salem this year. It is not true that the district had to make all of the decisions they did. Certain allocations were increased at the expense of teacher jobs. Furlough days were minimized after repeated evidence that both parents and staff supported a ten-day cut. These are decisions the district must own—they cannot be pawned off on the state. Shifting the argument to state allocation should not be a way for the district to conceal its own intents.

Why did the advocacy groups show up so late in the process—literally hours before the final vote.

Understanding a district budget is a difficult, time-consuming process. The budget and many of its ramifications were not fully understood until two weeks before the final session. Many of the changes were buried in pages of documentation and required a working understanding of previous budgets to fully comprehend. Other concerns were brought up at previous comment sessions and were not responded to. Verifying the veracity of our claims and making sure that what we communicated to parents and student was true took time. In retrospect, looking at the timeline for the budget process, it is a minor miracle advocacy groups were able to respond meaningful in the small time given.

If you find these arguments convincing, then it follows that action should be taken. That action is the re-opening of the budget and the consideration of more furlough days. I ask on behalf of Beaverton students, current and future, that you retain music—it is vital to a quality education.
                                   
Sincerely,
Tom Colett

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