I attended the last school board meeting at South high after I discovered about some proposed budget cuts. Well, I don't know if proposed is the best word since I've already been told that certain employees have already been told they "basically" don't have a job next year. Which jobs am I talking about? Classroom aides.
I took the podium and said my piece about why they mustn't cut this area of the budget and I got an nice form letter in the mail for it. It says they care.
Well, first and foremost I do expect them to care, but caring isn't enough to correct these problems. And it's not correcting these problems. I heard them say that a lot at the meeting too. I'm glad they care and to be fair they don't have an easy job.
So, why shouldn't they cut another classroom aide or two? Well, for one, they don't have enough of them as is. They're already spread thin and, at my son's school, there will be an increase next year of students who need them.
Second, when doing budget cuts, the last things you want to cut are those that put you at legal risk. Most of the kids who require a classroom aide, actually require the assistance as part of their Individual Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is protected by federal law (check IDEA). When a school can't or fails to uphold a child's IEP they violate federal law. They open themselves up to due process complaints and lawsuits. And if it isn't clear already, legal actions cost money, and it won't be that of the child's family.
Third, and every bit as important, the classroom aide is crucial for balancing the classroom with out special needs kids. It's because of the classroom aide that the teacher can keep concentration on the bulk of the class while the aide helps the one who she would have to constantly stop for otherwise. So now we affect the education of every single child in the room. And the special needs kids in these classes have the same right to be there as any child (so let's not even get into that, besides removing them all means putting them somewhere else and hiring someone qualified for those numbers and oops.. even more money!)
So, cutting classroom aides is like cutting off your legs for weight loss. If your child has an IEP or needs that classroom aide in any way, you should be making noise right now. The school board needs to hear from you. If you can't make it to a meeting, write them a letter or email, get heard and show them that you care about your child's education and educational rights. And even if your child doesn't have an IEP, your child will be in class with students that do. This isn't extracurricular activity, it's the main core of your child's education. Think about it.
Now, I want to address one more angle of this and it's a response from one of the board members that perplexed me greatly. A voice of the board said that we need to make sure and talk to our legislators, representatives, and related politicians. That seems fair, except for one small thing. Now, I can tell you that I agree, we should make as much noise as possible to get the state to put the funds into our schools where it belongs. But, correct me if I'm wrong, didn't the board members get elected to represent us? When I went up to that podium, I was recorded on camera. Everyone was. It seems to me that we give them plenty of info that way to take to the officials they should have open access to. When we email them and write them out concerns that should be the same deal. So, while it's a fair idea, telling us to go talk to someone else seems like saying, "please go over my head".
But seriously, if I'm misunderstanding their function, please, please correct me. I don't want to be unfair and I understand that their job isn't an easy one. I understand that there are lots of jobs and issues involved. It just seems to me that they are the first line in our "chain of command" on these issues to go to. Maybe it was just the delivery of the message? Well, I have no problem with talking to who they say to talk to... so long as they are right there with me doing the exact same thing as someone who represents my district.
In closing I will say this; if the cuts continue and you find it affects your child's education... if it causes failure to uphold an IEP... you need to step up to bat and file complaints. Because, if our complaints now aren't enough then we need to take more drastic steps. Maybe when enough of us start suing and filing due process complaints (which will go right up to county and state levels), it will get their due attention. Unfortunately, that will hurt the system more, but that is not the fault of the parent. We are only standing up for our children's educational futures.