Jan 22 editorial: School budget

Jan. 22, 2011

We can wring our hands or pick up our tools and get to work, in the face of the school budget crisis.

The tone and degree of insight shown in the school budget forums is one encouraging note to consider as we head into a spring full of difficult decisions.

Many voices are being raised and all are being heard as Supt. Charlie Beck and the school board and budget committee tour the county taking input. (Details on page A1.)

Putting their efforts to the grindstone is the group known as Save Our Schools. These parents and other citizens have quickly responded to the crisis and will start meeting Feb. 2 to generate ideas for at least defraying the damage that will happen as an additional $3.5 million must be pared from an already lean school district budget.

Meanwhile, there is good news of an existing ongoing effort to supplement the work of teachers in the district.

The Hood River County Education Foundation board has just awarded $14,788 in teacher grants to Hood River County School teachers and staff for 2011-12.

The overall amount seems minute compared to the total cuts that must be made, but it's amazing how much educational value can happen with the help of an $800 grant here, a $500 grant there.

For a district that is already two years behind the textbook adoption cycle, and limited to virtually no field trips, these stipends for books, software, materials, and hands-on gear give students throughout the district unique opportunities to learn. Those opportunities might be ones that teachers could not otherwise provide, or the funds augment work that is already going on.

From math and science and reading to special needs, art and PE, the grants cover a great deal of instructional ground.

If you attended the Trail Band Christmas concert you played a part in helping fund these projects, as all the proceeds from the annual show go toward the teacher grants. Further, the grants touch every school in the district.

It's a process that was in place long before the administration issued the troubling news about the depth of the deficit the district faces, but knowing now that these grants are coming will give teachers and principals more tools in their strategies for how to respond to the budget cuts.

There is, of course, a great deal more work to be done in the overall budget cut response. The grants are only a small part of what can be done to cushion the impact of the budget losses.

But the grants are an indication of what is possible in Hood River County, along with the potential contribution of Save Our Schools and other citizen-based efforts.

In plain and sad fact, the budget cuts must be made. Meanwhile, if you would like to have a say in how the district enacts them, of if you have ideas for the best way to do it, you have one more opportunity this month at Monday's 6 p.m. forum in Cascade Locks.

If you do not wish to speak, you may bring written testimony. If you speak, you'll have four minutes to do so, a time limit that is rigorously, while cordially, enforced.

Or just attend, and listen and learn. Credit goes to Supt. Charlie Beck, in his first year with the district, for the heartfelt way he presents the sobering facts.

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