The budget cuts are baaaaad

At the board meeting on Monday, April 20th, Superintendent Linda Beyea said that she was trying to keep the budget cuts away from our students. Why then does the Superintendent’s budget include the elimination of 3.18 Ames High teacher positions? If the administration is truly concerned about the effects of a large cut on the students, teachers should be the last to go. Instead, teachers make up the majority of positions being cut from the district, while the central administration stands to lose no more than half of one position. Think about this. The teachers–who spend every day teaching the students–are being reduced while the administration receives nearly nothing in the way of cuts. What is more, the high school cuts will be coming almost entirely from the English and Social Studies departments. “It’s a shame,” retired history teacher Kirk Daddow said. “We can’t afford to make these cuts. The closer you are to the students at Ames High, the more danger you are in. It’s always been that way.” Daddow strongly disagrees with the administration’s idea that cutting teachers will not be a detriment to learning at AHS. Teachers are the most important part of any school system, and in his opinion, AHS cannot spare any more of them to budget demands. “The Social Studies department used to have eleven teachers. Now we’re down to eight, and here they’re going to cut one more.” The total cuts to the AHS teaching staff lie in the neighborhood of $200,000, and while they look great on paper, the reductions will in fact have an adverse effect on students. Consider this: If just four or five students are added to a class, the workload for that teacher also increases. This forces the teacher to assign more worksheets and more standardized tests. It also leads to a reduction of writing and discussion, the most valuable educational tools in a teacher’s arsenal. But the administration does not seem to see this. Instead, they plan to put their money into other areas they deem more urgent. For example, the new budget stipulates $100,000 toward new textbooks. "We have got to do something," Dr. Beyea said. "We have textbooks that are 20 years old, 25 years old." But isn’t that the point? Hasn’t Ames High functioned amiably with outdated textbooks. Are we not nationally ranked? The truth is that teachers have a far greater role than textbooks ever will. In addition to this, the administration also employs a great deal secondary educational staff. According to Bob Zientara of the Ames Tribune, the ACSD hired $200,000 worth of professional staff. Among these employees, an instructional strategist with an estimated salary of $72,000, That’s more than double the base salary of an AHS teacher, and while nobody doubts the contribution these people make, the luxury of a large administration is something we may not be able to afford. The homepage of the ACSD declares that its mission is “ . . . to ensure that all learners develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and personal esteem necessary to grow in and shape a changing society." You can argue these cuts from any angle, and there are valid points of view on both sides, but it seems to me that while textbooks can give us knowledge and instructional strategists can mandate how this knowledge is presented that neither can compensate for skills, values, and personal esteem only teachers can provide.