SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

Standing With The Smallest!

By Leo Bennett-Cauchon

There are alternatives…

…to bringing children to tears and parents to anger,
to ripping the social fabric of our neighborhoods,
to making the lives of our lower income families even harder
to increasing the carbon footprint of education.

One is called the sustainable (walkable and community-centered) neighborhood schools that already grace our unique and diverse urban neighborhoods. Over the years these schools have managed to protect themselves from the “short list” closure efforts by the central office except for the two we have lost in the past few years. Now, four more are targeted with ten more at risk. At this rate the extinction of a valuable community resource is fast approaching. This is wrong both in terms of equity and cost effectiveness.

Another is called weighted student budgeting. Good stewardship means paying attention to the quality of smaller as well as the efficiencies of quantity. Learning happens at the local school level and this is where the funding decisions should start. With a per-student budgeting model, individual schools would receive about $9,420 for each student (average per student funding in 07-08). This would cover every existing site budget with plenty of funds available for a creative competition by the central office through quality support services.

School sites need to be focused on addressing the diverse challenges of our students. They are our future. Small neighborhood schools have a research-established ability to provide important individual attention and to nurture crucial resiliency factors. These quality aspects save the community millions in future social costs and also provide us millions in future contributions to the economy.

Small schools produce good citizens.

SCUSD management is desperately pushing their larger school-size model to take advantage of the global fiscal crisis. Unfortunately they are also now using misinformation to advance this agenda. They state that closures are necessary to address budget shortfalls. SCUSD’s income has increased every year except for one slight dip a few years back and, with the federal stimulus, will continue to grow in the future. Spending has grown consistently and is projected by management to be higher than last year by $25 million at year’s end. This is not accurate but is an example of the errors resulting from haste and the lack of focus on responsible savings, taking away from our neighborhood schools.

They also maintain that closures are needed due to a 10-year decline in enrollment. SCUSD’s own medium-range projections state that we will see the beginning of a 10-year increase in elementary enrollment starting in 2008-09. The projection was for 26,327 and at the October CBEDs count, SCUSD elementary enrollment was at 26,357. The future projection is for a return to 1999-00 levels by 2014-15.

The community must stand together with our most vulnerable and smallest members.

Management is both literally out-of-town and out-of-touch.

Management needs to return to their roots as teachers first. Thus another alternative is to expand the proposal from renting out portions of their central office to completely re-purposing Serna Center. It could be fairly easily converted to a great revenue asset and is the nicest facility farthest from the actual core mission of the our district.

The mission? Success for every student by name. This is a current reality at our neighborhood schools. Re-purposing the central offices would be a great commitment towards safeguarding this core mission in challenging times.

The benefits of management relocating to the local schools and having the opportunity to easily contribute each day to directly supporting student achievement could also be a significant boost to the efforts to bridge the achievement gap. Unlike the current lose and gain approach, per student budgeting and decentralized district management could be a win-win alternative. Our Board should ask for management to cost-out these alternatives so that a truly informed decision is evident to the stakeholders of SCUSD.

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Written by scusdobserver

April 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Commentary

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