I’m upset. My hometown school district – or the town I consider to be my hometown because I spent more time there than in any other city during my childhood – had huge fiscal problems that they had to address (the city has its own district). They’ve been throwing around different ideas for a while – closing an elementary school, cutting key activities, cutting jobs, etc. The board finally approved the following cuts (one of which I fully approve, the rest of which I dislike):

  • Closing an elementary school – I actually agree with this. Lakeville was a fast-growing city when I lived there, but the rate of school-age kids in the district has been steadily dropping for a few years. It makes sense to consolidate expenses and close one of the nine elementary schools.
  • Cutting 94 jobs – I don’t like this, but this doesn’t surprise me or anyone I know who works in the district. Unfortunately, many of the people that I know will be cut because they haven’t been tenured. I agree with tenureship in higher education (partly because each college/university has a distinct atmosphere and professors make up that, partly because I want to be tenured!) but not in K-12 education.
  • Cutting activities – Originally they were planning to cut whole programs – debate, gymnastics, etc. They are still cuttings pieces of programs – for example, we currently have funds for six Speech coaches and will now get funding for three (we have fifteen coaches). As far as I’ve heard, football hasn’t been touched.
  • Raising activity fees – Here starts the rant. Activity fees are already exorbitant – $190 for Speech (plus a booster fee just for Speech to cover all the necessary expenses that the activities office won’t cover). They’re jumping up hundreds of dollars, likely somewhere in the $400 range. For one season, per activity.

Allow me to explain my frustration with this – I was a poor kid. I didn’t go on a huge band trip to Florida with the 300 band students because I didn’t think we could afford it (sadly, I later found out my parents would have found a way). I consistently asked for help in covering school expenses. When I was in Speech, for instance, I asked for help in covering my activity fees – just so I could participate. Luckily, I was able to participate in many activities during my adolescence, not all of which were school-related or expensive (4-H, church, Speech, theatre, Target Market, etc.) There are kids already unable to afford the activity fee for Speech – what happens to them now? They’re not even going to try to join the team because they’re going to assume that they can’t afford to (much like with private schools – kids don’t know there’s generally significant financial aid offered). Even for the kids who are brave enough to ask for financial assistance, will activities have the funds to help them out? This wouldn’t bother me so much if Lakeville weren’t such a snooty, money-flaunting town to begin with, or if they offered solutions to this problem.

What happens to those kids whose families aren’t rich enough to participate in extracurricular activities? They miss out on interacting with their peers. They miss out on the enrichment of participating in an extracurricular activity. They don’t have those extracurricular activities to put on their college applications. Colleges see them as less appealing than their rich counterparts because they don’t participate in extracurricular activities. Do you see where I’m going with this? By forcing the less affluent kids out of school activities due to cost, my hometown has widened the rich-poor gap even fricken further.

I’m upset.

There were other solutions, but they chose to ignore them. Now those kids are going to pay the price.

Read here: http://www.startribune.com/local/south/115619024.html?elr=KArksUUUezH_MDC7DaaDy_vDEh7P:DiU