Hoover Alabama: Whatever the real story is…it’s not going to be good.

 

 

“…..Hoover, Alabama — Hoover city schools tonight voted to cut school bus service to all but special education students in the 2014-2015 school year, according to a memo obtained by AL.com. In that memo, Superintendent Andy Craig argues the move is needed because of rising costs and shrinking revenue. The move, Craig argued, would save $2.5 million. The service will remain in place for special education students. “This was a tough choice to make. However, we want to remain focused on our number one goal: providing a top-notch classroom experience for all of our students.  Most of our funding streams remain in a state of volatility.  We will realize significant savings by making these changes to transportation and will continue to look for other areas in which to save taxpayer money and simultaneously protect the classroom,” system spokesman Jason Gaston wrote tonight in an email to AL.com…”

 

This is problematic for several reasons:

  • First ethics; as professional educators (do no education harm!) our natural inclination should be to create better qualitative pathways for students to come to school and be educated. We also should provide the opportunity for students to “live and learn” in an environment that best reflects the larger and diverse world for which they will enter, after leaving us. If “poor” students are “lowering” the scores (surprise Hoover: the lowest academic performing students in any educational setting are statistically the group that is financially the poorest). Our job (our ethical responsibility) is to devise strategies; counteract the deleterious effects of poverty, to make all students successful in such a way that their education will allow them to escape from the “cycle of poverty”. Finally, I am amazed (saddened) that any of my collogues would view their role in the “calling of education”, as limiting opportunities for some children; this is the opposite reason for my having gone into the field of education
  • Just put a pin in it: A large percentage (impossible to operate without it) of any school district’s budget is Federal, State and “federal pass through the state” funding.
  • A Superintendent and School board should always be cautious when receiving legal advice that will lead to huge legal fees. Or/and also when the Attorney says: “Don’t do X because it will cost us a lot of pain and pennies”; the Superintendent and School board should listen.(not sure which is the case here)
  • The Alabama State Education Department (ASED) has the legal ability (and responsibility) to force HSD to find other ways(less harmful to children) to balance their budget; or the ASED can appoint a budget manager who would have the total authority to manage the district’s budget; and make the appropriate, less damaging to kids, cuts.
  • Offering busing for Special Education students only. This sort of stands FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education for Students With Disabilities: Requirements Under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act) on its head; in this case the discriminating act (and the group of persons receiving discriminatory treatment)would be  the parents of students who are not designated special needs. Further, this “no busing” decision could also violate the “targeted groups’ attendance” sections of NCLB, as school districts can’t engage in practices that would remove potentially lower performing students from participating in a district’s standardized testing cohort. Oh, do federal judges love this: “let’s try to be slick and go back door” kind of stuff.
  • Not sure how the Civil Rights division of the DOE is going to look at the placing of barriers to children “getting to school”; HSD is actually moving against the stream of history (and best educational practices); which has indicated the need for expanded and improved access to education; and better school attendance..
  • If the African- American community of Hoover (and the Alabama State NAACP chapter) have an ounce of back bone, HSD  could easily  spend at least half of that $2.5 million on legal fees (with no promise of winning, and the possibility of being forced to pay “punitive damages”)
  • In the total HSD operational budget (FY 2013- $146,461,093.67); $ 2.5 million is (professionally speaking) a “small” amount (a portion of it can be made up with accruals; that is money that is budgeted at the start of the school year but is not spent in total, or not at all; this is a standard in every school district; i.e. a position budgeted for the start of the year but does not get filled until 1-2 months into the school year; the difference goes into the accruals budget, and it is not required to be publicized.) My review of HSD’s 2013 budget shows that the “budget deficit” is easily corrected without this extreme anti-educational measure (and I suspect anyone who has spent a day in education at ASED will see the same thing!); I will spare you a walk in the esoteric weeds of school district budgeting; but trust me, HSD is far from “in financial crisis”. (An Oct. 1 Fund balance of $109,885,045.66). Finally, the loss of students may actually do a great deal of budgetary harm as “poor” (title 1) students actually generate a large amount of non-local (tax) funding.  HSD should figure out a way to “moonwalk” away from this crazy idea.