---- — Students are back behind their desks for a school year that will bring new and imposing challenges.
It is in everyone’s best interests for local schools to succeed. Somehow, in the midst of budget battles last spring, that concept was buried under an avalanche of accusations and insults.
Taxpayers blamed school boards, administrators, teachers, athletics and other easy targets for the drain on their finances. Teachers lamented lost raises and benefits and the prospect of time-consuming documentation required by new mandated evaluations. Schools tried to figure out how they would implement new mandates this year that will force them to replace textbooks and institute anti-bullying programs while also coping with staffing cuts that spread the work over fewer people.
Sitting at the middle of all that are our children. By “our” we don’t mean only people who have kids in school. We mean the children of our communities, our future citizens and workers and parents.
The students don’t know much about the politics and pressures that are plaguing our districts. They only know the reality they are dealing with: canceled courses and field trips, fewer sports and extracurricular options, new tests and class requirements, transportation changes and stressed teachers.
Whether the new reality is a better way to run our education system or not is not an issue to the students because they have no control.
But we, as a community, do. Instead of all blaming other “stakeholder” groups for the problems, we should be working together — school staff, parents and taxpayers — to figure out how we can make a smoother path for our children.
How can we support the teachers so they know we value their very essential role in shaping young lives? How can we help sports teams get the equipment and uniforms they need? How can we get those pre-K kids from low-income families to school after their transportation was eliminated? How can we make up for the after-school programs that have been lost? How can we make sure our students still have art and music to stimulate their minds and souls? How can we assure that each student will be protected, nourished, encouraged? How can we prevent creativity from disappearing under a wave of required testing?
This is not about money; this is about solutions. We have caring community-service organizations and sports fans and parents groups and retirees who can come up with innovative ideas.
Unless everyone puts aside the bitterness and starts working on answers, our students will suffer.