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Community needs to make sure kids get best education possible

Posted: Sunday, October 05, 2003

Warning: The school board and the district are planning to raise the PTR (pupil-teacher ratio) for the second time in less than a year, and they're hoping we don't find out about it until the proposal has been passed. It's on the agenda for Nov. 3.

Guess what? Cat's out of the bag. We need to demand that our PTR get lowered and not raised. Visit your local school and ask how many children are in your child's classroom. If the answer is more than 25, your child is getting cheated out of a decent education.

Last time PTR was raised, we lost 50-plus teachers, lost the amount of classes offered, and we continue to lose as our children leave the district for a better education elsewhere. Lower the PTR and offer decent classes, and the children will not only get a decent education but they will prosper and flock to this district. It's a no-brainer.

Call every board member and let them know that we're not going to stand for another attack on the quality of our children's education. Inundate the district administration and the board members with letters of protest. Take action now before it's too late, because if they are able to get away with raising the PTR again, they'll be depriving your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, neighbor of his/her right to a decent education.

Next question? Why wasn't one cent of the $600,000 fund which was set up specifically to handle the hiring of more teachers when "bubbles" occur in buildings used when some of our schools showed higher enrollment than anticipated? No teachers were hired using this fund. Instead, the district chose to move teachers from other buildings to fill these positions. This happened two to three weeks after the start of school after children had begun to bond with their teachers. The students of the teachers who had to move were then already too full.

Ask what happened to Sears Elementary, Kenai Middle, K-Beach Elementary, etc. Ask what happened to the money set aside to hire new teachers to fill the positions in schools with over anticipated enrollment. Ask why the district cares so little for our children and the quality of their education that they would choose to cram bodies into classrooms rather than hire new teachers with money that exists in a fund set up for that express purpose.

Question 3: Why is this district choosing to throw money away on programs like Project Grad? The board and the district have decided to throw $50,000 "start-up costs" into an experimental project aimed at our outlying schools. This "project" will pay students who keep a certain grade point average something like $1,000 a year. Why? That's more than the cost of one teacher. We need more teachers and fewer children in our overcrowded classrooms, not money to bribe children to get good grades.

Not only that, but doesn't this discriminate against the other children in our district who aren't going to be paid? Why are we cutting teachers, shoving more kids in classrooms, cutting programs like art and music, then offering money to students to keep up good grades? Does this make any sense at all?

Heck, even in the deepest darkest part of the depression, schools still had music. And, the value of music has been proven to raise grades and stimulate minds, but don't get me started on that one.

Question 4: How much money is thrown at technology in our district? Students are going to have their grades on the Internet using a homogenized and extremely expensive grading program the district has purchased. Why? How many teachers could have been hired with that same money? What happened to giving parents credit for asking their child and their child's teacher how things are going in school?

I wonder how much time a teacher must now spend keeping grades and student information updated and uploaded. Will we be hiring secretaries for the teachers just so the paperwork can all get uploaded to the Net? Or will we expect teachers to spend an additional 10-plus hours a week being slaves to their computer?

What is happening to education? Our teachers are having to become "data entry technologists" who spend all their time uploading data instead of using that time to come up with creative and inspiring lesson plans.

Before I finish, I want to address the Leave No Child Behind Act. Already I have seen in my children's classes the parlaying effect this law is having on the education system in our schools. We are becoming a society where our children will only be taught how to pass a test. The federal government says every student must pass the same test without exception, no excuses. What that means for us is that when, for instance, our special ed students (fetal alcohol syndrome students, Down syndrome students, any student with a mental deficiency) fail to pass the very same test "regular" students have to take, the government will label our schools as "failing" and within three years will shut the school down. This will have a domino effect because those same special ed students will have to go to the next nearest school and in three years, that school will "fail" and on and on it will go until we have no more schools left.

Do we want our children educated? Or do we want confine their learning opportunities to solely training them to pass a test the federal government is shoving down our throats just so our schools will remain open. It's time for every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neighbor, teacher, principal and friend of a child to stand up and say, "We won't take it any more" and demand a change.

We had a No. 1 system here great students, inspiring teachers, and a caring administration. I know because I am a product of our local school district, and I have two successful college students who are thriving because of the quality of education they received from this district. Our district is getting derailed. Let's stop this train and get it back on the right track.

Get involved. Write letters. Take action. These children will be our next leaders, let's do what we can to give them a solid foundation and a great education. Bring back classes, keep PTR low, hire more teachers, get rid of the Leave No Child Behind Act and start caring about our children and their quality of education again.

Diane Vikse

Kenai



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