Local budget problems

Items related to the AAPS's current budget difficulties, especially the need to find $11 million in cuts for FY08 and 09.

Volunteers and donations

An important topic at our June 12 meeting was what we all as a community can do to help the schools through this crisis. If options for raising money with taxes are extremely limited, what kind of impact can we have by volunteering or making donations? Will it be enough?

“Comment from a teacher: [funding from the] AAPS Education Foundation is a great way to give teachers a morale boost.”

“What opportunities are available from PTO and other organizations to subsidize public education?”

Is the system broken?

Some of the questions raised at our June 12 meeting took different paths to the same topic: is the system broken? Are too many kids falling through the cracks? And what can we do about it? We did not get to address these questions at the meeting, so I invite everyone to weigh in on these issues.

“How can you expect parents, teachers, and the community to continue to support and not give up on a school system, which seems to be giving up on our kids. For example, fewer electives at middle school, bigger class sizes across the board. These are items that decrease the effectiveness of our children’s education.”

Views on the role of teachers

We had a number of questions raised about teachers at our June 12 meeting, only some of which were addressed by our panelists that night. The questions revolve around different perspectives on teachers: from inside, with concerns about morale and support, and from outside, with concerns about effectiveness and misperception. Here is a sample:

“While teachers have been asked to make repeated concessions in recent years, persistent negative attitudes about the union have made it difficult to build public support for increased revenues for schools. What can all parties – teachers, parents, administrators – do to overcome this obstacle? What substantive steps can the Education Assn. [union] take to address the concerns raised?”

New High School

Inevitably, there was discussion at our 12 June meeting about Skyline, the new high school. Questioners seemed concerned about opening a new school when the budget was already tight.

“There is a great deal of anger about the new high school being built at a time when cuts to programming are being made. Should we re-evaluate opening Skyline? What are the options, and the pros and cons of each?”

“What is the effect of the new high school on the budget?”

Middle School restructuring

The Middle School restructuring proposal was an inevitable topic at our June 12 meeting, though all the elements are already in place. It was clear that the restructuring took place for budget reasons, but there was concern about what the long term impact would be.

“What impact to you believe the middle school restructuring will have on the quality of the Middle School educational experience? What steps can be taken to mitigate negative effects? Would changes be made again if funding becomes available?”

“Could we please revisit the option of returning to a K-6, 7-9, 10-12 system?”

Budget issues: spending priorities

At our June 12 meeting, we received a number of questions that related to actual or possible spending cuts in the AAPS budget. These questions revolved around a key issue: what is expendable, what isn’t, and have we done all we can to avoid cuts to important programming. Some of these questions were addressed at the meeting, and we’ll be adding notes from the meeting below.

“School officials have said that most of the cuts made so far have come from non-instructional areas, including administration. Many people, however, wonder if administrative spending has really been cut back. What kinds of cuts have been made in non-instructional spending, and can any more be done?”

Budget issues: Cuts and Options

At our meeting on June 12th, we also received a number of questions that had to do with the impact of recent changes on the AAPS budget, what likely budget scenarios were, and what options are being considered. We didn’t get to most of these questions during the meeting, so let’s talk about them here.

“School officials have been saying that the AAPS budget has been cut repeatedly for some years now. Can you give us some examples of cuts and changes that were made, and programs lost? Which ones hurt most, and which were less painful?”

Budget issues: Retirement and Health Care

Rising retirement and health care costs are often cited as one of the largest pressures on the school budget. Here are some questions from our 12 June meeting on that topic:

“School officials say that rapidly rising health care costs, for current employees and retirees, is one of the biggest outside pressures on school budgets. Several measures are pending before the legislature that would tackle this problem, in some cases by shifting costs to employees and retirees. How do you see this problem, and what measures would you recommend to fix it?”

What can we do to change school funding?

At our 12 June meeting, there were a number of questions raised about what we all can do to change how schools are funded – at the state and local level. (Questions about private giving will be in a separate discussion.) Here are some the key questions raised:

“What can the public, and especially parents, do right now to address the funding crisis we face? What are the Board of Education, the AAEA, and the district administration currently doing?”

Community meeting begins an important conversation

The community meeting tonight at Burns Park, sponsored by AAPFS and the Burns Park PTO, marks an important beginning for the Ann Arbor community. The event brought together parents, teachers and interested citizens, to hear from and ask questions of the leaders of our school system. Of course, there is never enough time to address all the topics on participants’ minds, but some important questions were raised tonight, and honest answers given.