BENEFITS OUTWEIGH RISK OF SCHOOL LOAN
Crunch time is drawing near for the La Grande School District in terms of setting a budget for 2004-05. The district budget committee faces some tough decisions none of them easy. Figuring out how to deal with a projected $1.35 million shortfall isn't an enviable task.
The district apparently has already determined that the alternative school's days are numbered. Now the district must decide whether to pursue "borrowing'' an $850,000 missed payment from the state, which would help soften the blow on class sizes. District staff recommend the district take the loan and keep its fingers crossed that the state's revenue picture improves. The alternative would be cutting six elementary school teachers and four high school teachers. The impact on class sizes at the elementary level would be significant. Here are the estimates:
First grade: Class size would grow from 21.3 students per class to 24.4.
Second grade: From 24.7 to 28.8.
Third grade: From 25.5 to 30.6
Fourth grade: From 24.1 to 29.
Fifth grade: From 26 to 31.2.
Sixth grade: From 27.3 to 32.8.
LARGER CLASS SIZES, especially at the elementary level, would impact the quality of education and some kids' success might suffer. Taking the loan might amount to delaying the inevitable for one year, but the risk and the hope that the revenue picture will improve is worth it.
Similarly, the district should do all it can to preserve as many activities and athletics as possible, which again would necessitate taking the loan. Activities and athletics are important to kids and contribute to a well-rounded educational experience. The risk, again, is worth taking, even if it might mean that the same tough decisions will have to be addressed next year.
What all this amounts to is building a budget on hope. But for the sake of our children's education, the risk is worth taking.