A hypothermic perspective of LAUSD budget cuts

I’ve been relatively quiet the past few weeks as I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with taking care of my daughter’s healing after suffering a really bad broken leg and ankle.  However, watching her start to become a bit more mobile got me thinking, in a bizarre way, about the LAUSD budget cut crisis affecting families in Los Angeles. 

For those of you who don’t know, due to California budget shortfalls, about 20,000 teachers are, or have already received preliminary pink slips — letting them know that they may lose their jobs.  In LA, that means about 5,500 teachers.  How that relates in the classroom is that classroom size will increase dramatically (teacher:student ratio — forget about individual support…even grades 1-3 will be hard hit) and all the extras that the Booster clubs support through fundraising…well, there will not be any funding there, at all.  If your kids think school is no fun now…wait til next year, when the ONLY monies will be for reading and ‘rithmatic.  Not sure what will happen with ‘riting.  (Who ever thought the 3 R’s would become 2?)

Anyhooo…as I have been experiencing my child move about with a 25% loss of limbs, I am quite amazed at her resilience and also at her ability to focus in on what really matters.  She is able to move about on the wheelchair with great dexterity, hobble on crutches without falling over, make it to the bathroom…and, on her own, can even get herself food for a snack as needed.  She can move from wheelchair to sofa, call her friends, do her independent study (to stay caught up on schoolwork) and still also have energy (time she has lots of…) to practice her piano, watch TV, and go with me for walks in the ‘hood.  She’s mighty tired by the end of the day, and needs about 13 hours of sleep each night, but she is surviving, and ready to face the challenges of each new day.

I can’t help but make the parallel to the paralyzing cuts that will affect LAUSD.  If anything has to be cut, how can it possibly be the teachers?  If anything, we need MORE teachers, BETTER teachers, MORE arts and science and music instruction, MORE physical education…in order to have a strong, healthy, educated group of kids who will eventually run the country.  But having been in business for so many years, I understand the necessity of preserving the core.  In cold water, a body shuts down blood supply to keep the core alive.  In injury (like my child’s) the limb is secondary to keeping her fed, hydrated, warm, safe and healing.  I get it. 

So here’s an idea.  For years there has been contraversy about the value of homework.  And, yet again, another new study showing the lack of value (and negative impact) of homework on younger students.  Studies have shown that homework does NOTHING toward increasing a student’s knowledge or aptitude.  In fact, some studies have shown they DECREASE ability to learn.  For years there has been contraversy about the rigidity of Open Court reading and the curriculum structure and limiting the teacher’s creativity in teaching.  How about we take away homework?  No homework.  Means our children can play after school and get some physical exercise.  Give them a bit of oxygen in the brain, get them tired and they’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep, which means they’ll learn better the following day.  No homework means no need for teachers to spend hours on correction at the end of the day and perhaps less need for teacher’s aides.  Less photocopying and less use of precious resources.  More teacher energy for active learning throughout the day.  Relaxing the curriculum and allowing teachers a bit of creativity means no costly Open Court materials. 

Here’s another idea (which comes from years of sitting on the School Site Council and watching principals wade through red tape to get repairs/changes effected at their schools).  How about you let each principal have full control of their budget?  Including finding and hiring EITHER the LAUSD approved vendor, or a local vendor who might be 1) more invested in a local business; 2) less expensive; 3) able to actually get something accomplished quickly?

I’m just saying, rather than the hypothermic method, rather than losing limbs, how about letting the teachers and principals readjust and work around a full leg cast for a bit?  What if that 25% really is all about homework and fabricated curriculum constraints?  What if it really is about mismanagement of funds and resources at a District/bureaucratic level?

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