The following editorial written by Russ appeared in:
The TIMES PICAYUNE on AUGUST 18, 2011 & L’OBSERVATEUR on AUGUST 10, 2001
Thank you for Jennifer Boquet’s excellent coverage of the St. John the Baptist School Board’s Aug. 4 meeting. As she pointed out, the Board is still working out the nuts and bolts of the budget for the new school year, which has already begun.
The main reason for the delay is that for the third year in a row the state has not only cut funding for public schools but has actually increased the amount we have to spend on things that have nothing to do with education itself. The cuts combined with those costs are eating deeply into money that is supposed to pay for education. That means fewer teachers, fewer substitute teachers, and larger classes.
I’m proud to say that the superintendent and her dedicated staff of teachers, principals, and administrators realize this and are prepared to deal with it – again. I expect that they will pull off another miracle like the ones they have performed before: For the past three years, in spite of multimillion dollar cuts in essential funding, our students’ test scores have risen every year, in every school.
As Ms. Boquet pointed out, the debate over the new budget has just barely begun. Cuts are coming. None will be easy, but some fights on some issues may get nasty. One, as Ms. Boquet mentioned, will involve some proposed cuts in the athletic allotments for our two high schools. Some School Board members object to cutting athletic funding, mostly on the idea that it will lead some student athletes to drop out of school. They are entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts.
These are the facts:
In St. John Parish, the money allotted to teachers to help them buy things for their classrooms has already been reduced by at least 10 percent. Teachers are now spending $100 or more of their own money to buy classroom materials. The allotments for athletics, on the other hand, has not been cut by a single penny. Ever.
Seen another way, the School Board allocates roughly $25 per high school student for classroom use. The athletics programs’ per-student allocation is roughly $200 – eight times the per-student allotment for use in our classrooms. Even if the athletics allotment is cut in half this year, there will still be $77,000 for coaches to spend, which amounts to roughly $100 per athlete; still four times the per student allotment for classroom use.
The bottom line is this: For several years St. John the Baptist Parish Schools have accomplished more and more with less and less. This year, even if everything goes exactly right, we will barely scrape by. Like never before, every penny counts. I believe in athletics. But in tough times everybody must make sacrifices. I will vote to reduce our schools’ athletic allotments to zero before I will vote for any additional cuts to academic spending.
St. John the Baptist Parish School Board Member