Commentary: Summer School's Hard Lesson

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, June 26, 2009
Given the freedom to make the hard choices of what programs to cut and who to sacrifice, the Sacramento City Unified School District chose to sacrifice students. The board voted to cut summer school for elementary and middle school kids. That saves the district $2 million dollars, but some 5,500 Kindergarten through 8th grade students who need tutoring to get to grade level won’t get it. Oh – And 200 teachers and a hundred staff members lost their jobs, too.
Here’s what the board could have done:
It could have opted for two furlough days for all employees – and saved more than $2 million dollars.
Or, it could have frozen automatic pay raises, a $3.6 million dollar savings.
It could have shared health costs, including adding a $15 co-pay for doctor visits, a modest increase that would save $3.8 million dollars.
Of course the options the board didn’t choose would have required renegotiating contracts with teachers, a hard thing to do, but well worth it to save summer school.
Sac City is not alone. School districts across the state have opted to cancel or scale back summer school this year, hurting kids and their most junior teachers, rather than asking for shared sacrifice from all. And that sets a bad example for the kids and for the public.
Pia Lopez writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.