Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Schools and the Financial Crisis in Illinois...

I have only lived here in southwest IL for a few years. I was born in PA, but that doesn't count for anything beyond my Dad going to college there. My one true real home of all homes is Montgomery County Maryland. A suburb of Washington DC. Things are VERY different between here and there. Here, we are in the Bible Belt and if you do not (and we've already established that I don't) worship the Bible and all its various characters, you are noticed. Interestingly enough, I have met more mean spirited people here in IL who profess to be devout Christians/Believers than anywhere else I have EVER been. People here seem to be no less greedy than back home, maybe even more-so!

Greed is the official cause of this post. One just watches the news here and comes away feeling dirty. Last night the news had a story about the Cahokia School district Board's hearing  about their upcoming vote that could cost 70 teaching jobs! The article I linked does not include a lot of the things mentioned on the live newscast last night. One of those is the trip to Vegas the school board took -- all in the name of "helping" the children. I realize that teachers need help and tools and such, but THEY are the ones who should be going to these seminars, assuming that anyone should be going at all. The school board is not in the classroom! All that aside, the budget crisis here has been well discussed for the past couple years, so any trips should have never been made, knowing that there were issues with funding and that the State is in a meltdown situation.

I will not sit here and tell anyone that the school system back home is perfect, because it is far from it. However, it is run far differently than those here and I believe that the state and the individual townships here could benefit from a similar set-up. Almost every town here has its own school district and subsequently its own Board of Education. I don't know how many that is off-hand, but it is a lot! Back home, schools are run at the County level. One B.of E. in each county. State and Taxpayer monies are collected, pooled into the district coffers and distributed to the schools. Buildings are repaired, replaced, built -- sometimes not as fast as or to the degree that folks want, but that happens everywhere -- by the County School Board. I believe that the County level system benefits the students better for the long haul. If there is a school that is struggling they can add resources so they can work with and through it. When it has gotten its feet under it again, they can do it for another if needed. Additionally, because there is only one board, there is more money to run the district and distribute amongst the schools. The bus system is run by the county. They own their buses and maintenance centers and they pay the drivers salaries, thereby avoiding the additional costs associated with paying a contractor. Same goes for the cafeterias and maintenance.

The point is that the State of IL is broke, they are behind in their payments to ALL the school systems. The school boards do not seem to have any oversight to make them stop unwise spending in this time of crisis, and they are apparently OK with sacrificing the quality of education because of it. A County level district would make the Boards members accountable to a lot more people come election time. If the districts were consolidated, there would be fewer salaries to pay to School Boards and more money for teachers salaries and probably more positions as well. The teacher is the most important position in a school, after all! Another bonus is that families can sometimes get their kids to other schools that offer programs and classes that their own school does not. Our high school in the town we left in MD to move here had a Global Ecology Program that was a really big deal. Kids from all over the county were able to take advantage of it if they wanted AND the county bus system got them there. We got to choose between 2 elementary schools because one had an integrated Spanish program and a more in-depth Computer lab program, while the other had a typical curriculum -- BOTH of which were good. It just gave people some choices they may not have otherwise had.

I have an additional rant about the schools here and at home and anywhere else that has this issue to be quite frank. When I was a kid, we had PE daily and Art and Music 2-3 days a week in Elementary School. Apparently that is no longer the case at home and apparently is not done here either. The big deal over this is OBESITY! Now, probably more than any other time in history, it is vitally important to have DAILY PE! Art and music are also extremely important, because we need these kids to have more to do than just video games. Giving just a few lessons in art and music means fewer children are having the chance to be inspired and nurtured for it. This country is already losing its footing in the world and this is not helping. In this economy, for varying reasons, many parents either cannot or can no longer afford to pay the high costs associated with after school sports and so PE is the one place to get their kids some healthy controlled exercise. A burden is surely on us as parents to get the kids out from in front of the t.v., video game, computer etc... BUT the schools teach them differently than at home -- it is a more consistent education in community and socialization for the whole group than what we each do in our families. PE can help these kids, especially the high (and ever rising) numbers if ADD/ADHD kids that need to let off some energy, which helps concentration and hopefully means fewer disruptions. Recess is not enough and many schools are reducing recess so much it hardly matters. I have even heard of some eliminating it altogether.

By the time these kids get to Middle/High School where the PE is daily, they are almost all set into the patterns that will shape them for life, no matter what the talk in the classroom is about health. As with additional languages, the younger mind absorbs best and to foster good physical activities one needs to start them young -- the younger the better.

Alright all you back-HOMies... weigh in on the county school district. Especially K.T.S.W. since you work in it.


  1. It makes me sad to see what so many school districts are doing. Isn't there any other way to save money except for getting rid of teachers?

    I live in Pennsylvania now. Our school district is doing pretty well in this turbulent economy. For this I am thankful : )

    Visiting because you were the comment above me at Scary Mommy. Isn't her blog the best? So nice to meet you!

  2. Hi Kaishon!
    Thank you for taking a moment to pop in!

    I agree that there has got to be a better way! It makes no sense to get rid of the most fundamental and integral part of learning -- TEACHERS! TO my mind, BofE should be the ones taking pay cuts first and job loss after that... then, if they need to cut support staff, so be it, but the teachers fulfill the most important job...

    I was born in Scranton and spent many a summer at camp in Ligonier. Beautiful state!

    Scary Mommy's blog is a great find! I am glad I found it! Nice to meet you as well!

  3. Now that I have visited your blog, let me correct and say HI MOM of Kaishon! =]