Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Old School

I watched Monday night's Wilkes-Barre Area school board meeting with a great deal of interest.  The board voted to make $ 4 million in cuts and get rid of 30 staffers.  Programs like library services, family and consumer science, technology and art are gone.

Okay, let's look more closely at this.

First of all, taxpayers are maxed out.  There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck, and that's in a good month.  Wilkes-Barre and surrounding townships are not rich.  School boards have to hold the line and live within their means.

On the other hand, it looks like some important things are being cut.  I'm not a parent, but I am around schools a lot because of work.  Wilkes-Barre Area cut library services.  Students need to learn how to use a library, look up information, learn the value of books, etc.  Family and consumer science also eliminated.  One of the most valuable courses I had in high school was an elective entitled "consumer economics."  Technology education got chopped as well.  Really?  You can't live and function without technology.  Art?  Gone.  I do know what the Wilkes-Barre Area art program entails, but I came from an arts poor high school, and I had to play a lot of catch up when I entered a liberal arts college.  A friend in the education field says Wilkes-Barre area cut programs that encourage imagination and creative thinking, and it's a mistake.

Teachers and their unions have resisted larger class sizes, and I get that.  Smaller classes work better, but if it's a matter of a larger class or none at all, the choice is clear.

Sports seems to have escaped unscathed.  I do realize sports provides the ticket to a free education for a lot of kids.  Sports is more than a game.  It's band and cheerleaders, community bonding, etc.

This is an analysis piece, not an opinion piece.  I do see both sides of this, and a appreciate the pickle the board and taxpayers are in.  It seems like there could be a negotiated mid ground-- keeping programs but scaling back and keeping an eye on the finances.

I just wonder if an entire new industry will pop up-- private entities providing the education and programs public schools have dropped.