Re Barry Paschals Nov. 25 column, "Equity means "adios:
I am a parent and a PTA president from Euchee Creek Elementary. I recently served on what Paschal erroneously referred to as the equity committee for the Columbia County Board of Education. This committee, in fact, was charged with far more than the issue of equity among the elementary schools in our county. Our task was to evaluate the elementary curriculum and make recommendations with regard to whether there should be some standardization of time and funding allotments for subject areas within the schools, and, if so, what those standards should be. Each of the 14 elementary schools was represented on the committee by a variety of teachers, administrators and parents.
The focus outside of the committee, however, has been directed at the Spanish programs at Stevens Creek and South Columbia. And outside my role as a committee member, let me say that in Paschals column, he implies that this committee was on a mission to sneak in and steal away Spanish instruction from his children. He portrays himself as a victim, a convenient target, overburdened by higher property taxes and on top of it all, he perceives himself to be the object of class envy. Is that why he feels he needs a government program to provide his children this added enrichment?
In reality, I dont think anyone objects to anyone taking their kids to all the Spanish classes or ballet classes or piano lessons they can muster the strength for - just dont ask us, the County, to pay for it. At least, that is, until such time as we can meet the basic instructional needs of the entire county with enough money left over to fund the luxuries.
Yes, Euchee Creek, North Harlem and Grovetown have a high percentage of free and reduced lunch recipients, and are therefore allotted federal Title I funds. This is a supplement to help ensure that the basic instructional needs of our children are met. We rely on Columbia County to provide the basic educational infrastructure/needs of our children just as all schools do. Isnt that the role of our local government?
Inside the committee, the research showed that Columbia County schools were very inconsistent in the amount of time each spent on certain subjects, especially science, social studies and physical education. Also widely varied was the amount of enrichment (physical education, music, art and foreign language) the schools were able to offer. The committee agreed that there should be consistency among the schools.
We set about this task looking for the best solution for our entire county, not any particular school or area. We took this charge very seriously and committed a lot of thought, discussion, time and effort to our work.
On the topic of foreign language, we learned that Stevens Creek and South Columbia are able to offer Spanish to their students as a result of a state pilot program that was developed some years ago, supplemented by PTO funds. We further understood that this program was not adopted by the state as a whole and only a handful of schools in the state continue to receive funding. This funding is not guaranteed and is actually being phased out of the schools initially participating in the program. Therefore, it seems likely that the state funding is not to be relied upon indefinitely.
This begs the questions: 1) If the state pulls its funding of this program, who picks up the tab? 2) If the county pays for Spanish in one school, shouldnt we fund it for all the schools? 3) What impact will this have on the proposed middle school foreign language program? 4) What model would we use to deliver this program? 5) Do we have the time in each day?
This list goes on. Our answer to question No. 2 is yes. We could not say that one school deserves instruction in a foreign language and another does not. Then the question became whether or not the county could afford to fund the program in all the schools. The answer to this was no. And yes, this is where I say If everyone cant have (county funded) Spanish, then no one can.
The committees recommendation to the board includes a provision for any school to apply for permission to work outside the time allotments if it is able to meet the needs of its students in the required areas. With this provision and the ongoing funding from the state and the PTOs, Stevens Creeks and South Columbias Spanish programs may go unchanged.
This issue was not only one part of the committees work. Our service was as advocates for all Columbia County students to ensure that they each have the best opportunities we as a county can offer.
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