I was sitting in a meeting yesterday where we were trying to decide how to spend about $10,000 that would be coming to my school from our district. I don’t exactly remember the reason the money was coming our way. Here were my choices to advocate for how to spend the money (in parenthesis is the amount of money needed to cover this cost):
Spend it to pay for subs to cover teachers when they had to take a day out of the classroom to co-plan with their department. My school is working towards having students defend a portfolio of their best work in order to graduate. In order to create these portfolio pieces, departments need time to (in no particular order): be clear on the most important skills that a high school graduate should have after spending time in their department, create projects that push students to do that thinking, reflect on and modify those projects in order to make them better/more in line with department goals/better line up with school goals, and create new projects in areas where projects are lacking. Clearly, spending money in this area is essential to our school’s mission, as well as creating critical thinkers and productive citizens. Cost: all of the available money
Pay for locks for our students’ lockers. Since the ACLU lawsuit about public education providing all the necessities for a student to function normally for free - meaning public schools can’t charge for field trips, locks for lockers, or PE clothes - these expenditures are becoming more normal. After discussing this topic very briefly, it is agreed that this money must be spent to ensure equal access to all our students. Cost: $1500
The next possible use of the money was to support low income seniors so that they could attend senior events. This means things like prom (though low SES students can get highly reduced prices to prom), Senior Knight (the senior party the night before graduation), and graduation gowns. Cost: $2000
My school has an advisory program that teaches students life skills and content that would normally be covered in content area classes. However, given the NCLB and high-stakes testing era, these skills have fallen by the wayside - advisory makes sure every student has a place to learn the skills. My advisory (grades 9 and 10) also serves as a home base for students throughout their adjustment to high school. Every year I have student-led conferences where parents/guardians show up and have students reflect on their progress thus far in the year, set goals for the next grading period, and answer parent and teacher questions. The next use of the money from my district was was to reimburse the 9th and 11th grade teachers for the time they put into these conferences. Cost: $6000
The final choice: ensure funding for the entire year for our after school program. We have had an after school study program for the last four to five years. This program is funded by our site’s money and staffed by graduates of the program and run by graduates of the high school I work at. The after school program serves at-risk students that, despite our best efforts, don’t get served by our best efforts. Cost: $1000
Why does a school - an incredibly progressive high school, with a history of innovation and creativity - need to fight for a couple thousand dollars? All of these things I just mentioned should get funded - all are essential. The fact that I - and the other teacher I teach with - have to MAKE A CHOICE about funding programs that are incredibly important to my school (a progressive school that doesn't waste money and has a butt-load of teachers that work REALLY HARD) really angers me. Should all of these programs be funded? Yes. Like one hundred times over. Why can’t they be? Grr.
Thanks. I feel better now. Or a little better.