Thursday, May 03, 2007

Back to School

Dr. Todd Roberts
Dr. Todd Roberts, Superintendent of AAPS
Back in February, our Leadership Ann Arbor class had our Education Day. Lindsay McCarthy, our fearless leader, had scheduled us to visit a variety of local schools, both public and private, K-12 and post-secondary. Then we got a real taste of being in school.

We had a Snow Day!

Thankfully, Lindsay, and the associated educational leaders, were able to reschedule the portion of the day that we missed. So, yesterday, bright and early at 8am, we assembled at the Chamber of Commerce offices for our make-up exam, er, I mean, presentations.

We started out with an hour-long talk from Dr. Todd Roberts, the Superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

This is not a happy guy.

Oh, sure. He has a lot to be proud of. AAPS has been #1 in receiving National Merit Scholarships for two years now. Various schools within his jurisdiction have received awards for their music and arts programs. Students in our schools tend to score much higher than the national average on standardized tests. Heck, AAPS is even the second largest employer in Ann Arbor (with over 3000 full and part time employees), behind only the University of Michigan.

So, what's his problem?

The problem is that, as with many public institutions in the great state of Michigan, his funding is getting cut.

And things don't look to be getting any better in the upcoming years.

At the beginning of this school year, the state government gave him a budget of $9619 per student. Now, close to the end of the year (with little to no time to make changes) he has to cut the district's expenses by $122 per student. This is the third time in five years that Lansing has cut his funding.

Fortunately, according to Dr. Roberts, AAPS is better off than 90% of the districts in Michigan. We have funds saved up for a rainy day that can go to help offset these difficulties. Unfortunately, the forecast is for a long string of stormy weather.

This is all just a bunch of numbers, though. What really brought the situation home was when one of the high school students in Leadership asked whether the music program was going to be cut. You could tell that this was important to her on a personal level.

Dr. Roberts didn't come right out and say that the music program would have to go (and art, drama, and anything else not directly related to state-mandated academic requirements). After all, no one wants to crush a young woman's dreams. He did, however, make it pretty clear that things are looking grim for anything not included in the "three R's".

I wish I could write about the light at the end of the tunnel. To be sure, the school district has many talented and dedicated individuals who are constantly looking for ways to make dwindling resources stretch a little farther. We do have funds put away to support the schools during tough economic times. We do have a vibrant, active community which values education on every level. We have a lot going for us.

Let's hope it's enough.

Tomorrow I'll write about a couple of the schools which we visited.

So, what are your fondest memories of your early school days?

1 comment:

Larc said...

I know where he's coming from - our budget is stretched so tight, the only way to cut is laying people off. About 20 teachers got notices in March for next year, depending on enrollment they may or may not be called back. Our K classrooms are already past capacity (30 kids), and with less teachers - well, I really am not looking forward to dealing with a larger number. Sigh.