The Constant Balancing Act
Even though Mount Vernon (N.Y.) Public Schools' $187.4 million contingency budget includes an $8.6 million increase over last year’s budget, this summer student athletes are fundraising to help revive their district’s $1.1 million athletic program. Officials recognize that sports programs are the saving grace for many of these teenagers, and what keeps many students in school, yet administrators had to cut the programs with the hopes that perhaps additional funding will be allocated to the district. The nation’s mortgage fiasco, lower property tax revenues that fund school districts, state money reductions, the fuel crisis, and the rising cost of union contracts and benefi ts have combined to create a perfect storm—which happens to be the title of our annual school spending report written by Senior Features Editor Angela Pascopella. She reports on how districts are handling the current economic fiasco and shares advice from experts on strategy and prioritizing in order to protect the “sacred cow” of academics and classroom instruction.
Another part of the constant balancing act that administrators must handle is the growing trend of districts and whole states imposing themselves on students’ health issues. One school in Portland, Maine, distributes birth control, and across the nation parents are receiving notifi cations of their children’s body mass index scores. “Districts Weigh Obesity Screening” offers the ins and outs of a program that has not yet proven its effectiveness. Managing cafeteria food may be an innocuous way to introduce students to healthier eating habits, but might notifi cations of a student’s body fat be the latest sign that schools are part of the “nanny state”?
Of the other home/school issues that administrators are grappling with, cyberbullying seems to currently top the list of student expression that occurs off campus but has a huge impact upon the everyday school environment. In “We Hate Ashley,” written by Nancy Willard, the director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, a hateful online profi le is created about Ashley, a generic student, by her schoolmates, including crude sexual innuendoes and remarks about her weight. Her grades plummet, she stops attending school, and she ultimately comes under suicide watch. Can off-campus expression that disrupts school activities be subject to in-school discipline? Nancy tells us the state of things today.
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Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor