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Bad Economy: Killing Public Schools?

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That's not all schools are doing to cut costs.


Soon, school may look very different to your children. Why? It's no surprise the economy isn't doing so hot. And thanks to electricity, water, and gas prices on the rise, the results could impact your kid severely. Kids will walk farther to the bus stop, pay more for lunch, study from old textbooks and wear more hand-me-downs. Field trips and electives may become a thing of the past.

That's not the only way schools are cutting corners.

In Minnesota, one district is canceling Monday classes to save fuel. On the other four days, classes will run 10 minutes longer. According to superintendent Greg Schmidt, a shorter week will save at least $65,000 in fuel.

So where does this leave parents? There's no doubt kids will have to stay awake for longer classes, and many families will be scrambling to find daycare every Monday. Sure, this particular Minnesota district is small with only 700 kids, but in the U.S., 14 other districts are switching to four-day weeks--and more may follow suit, according to a recent survey by the American Association of School Administrators.

Many parents are spending less on back-to-school clothes, shoes and backpacks, according to a survey last month by consulting group Deloitte.

That's just one way parents are pitching in to save costs.

• Last year in Michigan, schools started asking parents to drive or carpool to sports games on the weekend.

• In Waterford, Conn., parents are shelling out cash for annual field trips and almost half the schools in the school administrators' survey said they are canceling field trips altogether.

• In Jacksonville, Fla., school lunch prices will rise 70 cents, due to rising fuel and food prices.

• Some schools in Alabama aren't ordering new textbooks, and instead of having the school bus stop at each house, kids in fifth grade through 12th grade will have to walk to neighborhood bus stops.

• And although many school buses in South Carolina have been chugging along for a whopping 22 years, the district will spend $11 million on fuel, instead of on new buses. But that's better than California's Folsom Cordova district, which will have no high school buses at all this year.

• At Choctawhatchee High School and several other schools in Florida, schools will begin charging students $5 to use a locker next year. And they've doubled the price for student parking from $10 to $20 for this school year.

According to experts, until the economy improves, parents will have no choice but to adjust to the change.

Is the economy killing your kid's school--and what will you do to fight back?

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49 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous August 19, 2008, 10:27 AM

Wow. Why is it that the only institutions that the government (ans we as taxpayers) are responsible for are faring so poorly? Other countries have higher standard public schools and super cheap uni, universal health care and thriving economies. Americans appear to be somehow affronted when asked to pay higher taxes for the “little” things like their children’s education. Maybe its once bitten, twice shy, as we see trillions of dollars literally go down the drain overseas. I want to personally thank everyone who voted George Dubbya Douche into office.

Anonymous August 19, 2008, 11:30 AM

Haven’t heard anything like that happening here. The poor kids will still get their handouts as usual.

Kate August 19, 2008, 1:13 PM

The federal government is not the only place where schools get their money. Local taxes contribute to a huge part of a school’s budget. The school district where I live is actually one of the best in the state of Ohio, but because school levies failed in the past, they once cut school bus service to all students within a one-mile radius of a school and all high schools. And $20 for a school parking pass isn’t bad. I had to pay at least $70 five years ago for mine.

So the economy isn’t great right now. That’s not the president’s fault. If you’ve studied economics, you’ll know that the economy really is not determined by who is in the highest office, so don’t blame Bush.

I personally get frustrated when people expect to be able to live an independent life with all of their personal rights, but then they expect the government to take care of them. Yes, we pay taxes, but that’s not so that the government can fully fund our schools, pay for our health care, and pay a salary to stay-at-home moms. If you want that, then move to a socialist nation.

I feel that I work for my money. I don’t mind paying a little to the government to keep the nation running, but I HATE paying taxes knowing that people take advantage of programs like welfare and social security. We can’t expect this country to take care of us financially - no matter who the president is. The United States of America is a capitalist country that allows people to find success based on their own hard work.

I’m proud to live in a country like that, and as long as I am able, I will take pride in supporting myself and not having to rely on the government to take care of me and my family.

And you’re welcome for voting for Bush. I can’t imagine the mess that this country would be in if Gore or Kerry were in office!

birdsfly August 19, 2008, 2:07 PM

I live in northeast Ohio and none of the high ranking schools can get their levies passed. The school system I went to is in drastic need of new buildings (they are still using the middle school that was dropping bits of ceiling on me when I attended) and tried to pass a levy for a central campus to better protect students and use resources but a group actually advertised against the levy. It seems that people in the community that don’t have children or no longer have children in the system don’t want to contribute to any future generations so our children no longer get field trips, buses, decent school lunches, or crayons in art class.

Anonymous August 19, 2008, 4:52 PM

our schools have gone from a one mile no pick up zone to a 1.5 mile no pick up zone. This includes grades K-6. Can you imagine having to send your 5 year old on a 1.5 mile walk to school everyday (keep in mind that in the winter, they’ll be walking in the dark!). Our school system will drive more than 20 miles away from school to pick up the few kids whose parents choose to live out in the boon-docks, yet a 5 year old one mile away is not entitled to a ride to school. Give me a break! If some get to ride, all should get to ride.

Anonymous August 19, 2008, 5:09 PM

Sorry, but I have to agree with the first poster. If we weren’t throwing millions away on this BS war, we may have money to put into things that really matter, our children.

And no, I don’t expect a free ride, I drive my kids to school, volunteer in their classes, provide supplies to the school. But not everyone has the luxury of being able to be a stay at home mom. Some families don’t have the means to donate to the school.

Most families are in the same financial situation as the school systems, barely getting by. How is it fair to then throw more burden onto struggling families. I think every american child is entitled to a quality education. This should be our nations top priority. Shame on G. W. Bush, and anyone who thinks like him.

birdsfly August 19, 2008, 7:08 PM

If the money weren’t going to the war would it go to the schools? Probably not. More likely it would go to some pork spending stuck onto a bill to put in five billion dollar llama crossings in Alaska. We end up wasting money on the silliest things that get snuck into important bills and never see any benefit.

Anonymous August 20, 2008, 2:38 AM

Kate, you make me laugh, I’m an economics major…and I am sorry to say that yes, the poor choices made by our administration is largely to blame for our economy. Yes, taxes come into play at a state level (in a big way) but when we see a vital part of our national community (its the freaking educational system, for chrissakes, its not like we can do without it) its time for the folks in Washington to step it up. And whoever made the comment about poor kids getting handouts, all I can say is remember that comment when you inevitably feel the hurt of a crappy economy. Maybe you’ll need a handout someday.

Republican or Democrat—Your kids are getting burned. Wake the eff up.

tony August 20, 2008, 7:21 PM

you know i am feeling the hurt of a crappy economy with my second child on the way. i have been layed off now for a month with six days to go until the new arrival. yes i have found new work but still its a struggle. i also served in the us navy for four years and to all of you who call this a bs war just know that if we hadnt gone over there and met them on their turf they certainly would have come over here and met us all on ours. i wish that kids programs wouldnt get cut but it is a necessary evil right now. and this is not all due to th govt it is also due to parents like you who cant find the time to take their five year old to school. you make them walk.

omgimacheermom August 23, 2008, 7:16 PM

I teach at a public school in WV, but our excess levy always passes…and hopefully it will again this year. We are the 2nd to the lowest paid teachers in the nation, and if not for our levies, we wouldn’t even have health insurance. We get huge mandates from the feds, like “No child left behind,” with no money to implement it…and our state can’t fund it.

We have a beautiful high school campus and great schools in our system because of our community. If they didn’t care about our kids, the levies would go down and there would be no sports, no tutoring, no band, no text books!

Welcome to the future, it’s only going to get harder as our priorites remain off target! Get with it people, no education, no future!

ashley August 26, 2008, 9:36 PM

How sad the buses won’t stop in front of EVERY HOUSE. Come on people since when did buses stop at every house! And who is the lame brain that cut school down to 4 days a week. What was that guy thinking gee we got to cut fule cost I know no more Monday class. Maybe they should look to see what others do. In Japan they have a 5 hour school day 6 days a week then all the kids stay after school for 10 minutes to clean up the school instead of paying a staff of janitors and get this most kids walk or take the subway home. May be instead of spending money on diesel american schools should upgrade their buses to electic and cut out the diesel.

Anonymous September 17, 2008, 12:46 AM

You all who say Bush is to blame for this war are uneducated for the simple fact that he did not make the decision to go over there himself. If you remember anything about your government class you would know that these decisions are made by Congress and must be passed by both parties. Everyone wants the government to work for them but some of you want the government to live for you. Stop being so lazy and achieve something in your life instead of complaining about the people who already have. And to those of you who do not understand how the schools buy books here’s a little common knowledge. Your child’s textbook is determined on which book gets picked by a committee from each company (McGraw-Hill, Glencoe, etc.). Since these decisions are usually based on “donations” from overseas foreign writing companies, they are usually biased in some direction. Watch the news, its all over it. Just because your child does not get the newest textbook each year does not mean he or she will not get as good of an education as someone who does. We are not robots, we learn from experience as well. And boo hoo your child has to go to a neighborhood bus pickup. We should be doing this even if our economy was in good shape to save fuel. I can bet that most of you who do not agree with the war do not have a good understanding of how foreign issues work. We need to stop being such porkers and not life in this fantasy world that we can borrow as much money as we want. Our financial institutions are to blame as well for lending you all money who have bad credit. Work harder, get smarter

Bob September 22, 2008, 5:13 PM

We have met the enemy and it is US.
America has been selling out for a long time. Blame our own politicians and the sheeple.

People that think hard work is all it takes. You money is eroded no matter how hard you work.

People that have had one econ class have enough information to be dangerous.
Its funny how they think they know it all and are trying to educated people here. You a peons and slaves to the system. The Federal Reserve has been printing money out of thin air for years. your taxes go to paying back interest on a loan with no gold backing.

And yes lenders got commission and fee crazy by talking (Conning) people into back end loaded loans that they could not afford.

Now they all want to be bailed out.
People on welfare are not the problem its the other end of the spectrum that is ruining the nation.
Short term greed over time has created this mess.

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