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Mailbag: Budget transparency needed in schools

May 17, 2010

Our children are in trouble: 95% of public school funds come from the state, and California has not been making good on its payments; 105 teachers in our district have received layoff notices. The district voted to cut K-3 class-size reduction, which means our youngest students could be faced with a 30 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio next year.

Although many argue that classes once had 30 students, it’s unfair to compare the standards of yesteryear to the classrooms and curriculum of today.

Fifteen years ago, the No Child Left Behind Act didn’t exist. Schools were not penalized if ALL children, including those with special needs and English language learners, did not meet adequate yearly progress.

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School districts, in an effort to avoid the punitive measures of No Child Left Behind, did not demand nearly as much from their teachers and students as they do today. Everyone must do more. Raise the bar. And do it year after year, with dwindling resources and support, and swelling class sizes. Nevermind that classes might have a large percentage of English language learners, or that many students might get little to no parent support at home. We must improve. Demand more from everyone, or else!

The district continues to worry about staying solvent. The Glendale Teachers Assn. believes the district has a much bigger surplus than they are letting on. If the union’s numbers are accurate, then the layoffs and cutting K-3 class-size reduction are not necessary to keep a balanced budget!

Whom do we believe? Parents are caught in the middle and forced to trust that others will make the best decisions for our children. Trust, however, in this day and age, needs to be earned. Perhaps the time has come for us parents to stop trusting everyone else to do right by our kids. Maybe it’s time we said, “Show us the money!”

Our schools are public entities, funded by public dollars, so total budget transparency seems like a reasonable request. More than 800 school districts in 43 states are showing their communities the money. Some even post their check registers online.

If our district opened its books, they would have a huge opportunity to prove that they have earned our trust. They could also legitimately harness the powerful network of parent volunteers that work tirelessly year after year, despite all the budget cuts, to ensure their children receive the best public education possible. Imagine the possibilities! We parents are business owners and analysts, accountants, lawyers and judges. We have knowledge, contacts and resources that go far beyond the reach of the school board. And guess what? Many of us are willing to work for free! Why not make the community privy to all the budget numbers, so we can work together to save every nickel, every dime and every teacher job!

The time has come for all of us to work together to ensure these budget cuts hurt our children in the least measurable way possible. But it is only possible with total budget transparency.

LINDA GUZIK


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