In these times of economic hardship, many entities are struggling with finances. Private businesses, families, public institutions and even governmental entities have found themselves having to cut expenditures, budget carefully and in many cases, do without things.
In Iowa, schools receive funds based on a formula that sets up a dollar amount for each student. Then, school districts have property tax levy authorities and the options to ask taxpayers for additional funding through elections to authorize sales tax levies, income tax surcharges and other levies. In Iowa, two such levies are SILO, or School Infrastructure Local Option tax and the PPEL, or Physical Plant and Equipment Levy.
But imagine if you would a school district where there were no extra-curricular activities of any kind because there was no money to use for the activities.
No football, basketball, wrestling, track, golf, baseball, softball, cross country, volleyball, swimming, cheerleading, speech, instrumental music, vocal music or student council.
Take that a step further. The lack of funds in the district not only eliminates all the previously mentioned high school activities, but they also force the district to eliminate art and all music at the elementary levels as well.
Sound far-fetched? It's not.
A school district just over the border in Minnesota was so tight on funding that it had taken board action to drop football, cheerleading, tennis, volleyball, cross country, basketball, gymnastics, wrestling, golf, softball, baseball, track, speech, robotics, Knowledge Bowl, math league, yearbook, fall and spring play, musical, student council, band concerts, choir concerts, orchestra concerts and science fairs. All told, the cuts would have totaled some $750,000.
The Fairmont Area School Board was saved from such drastic action after voters gave their approval to an operating referendum increasing per student funding from $500 to $950 per year. In addition, the school will continue to fund an activities director and activities director's assistant; elementary school art, music and physical education; fifth- and sixth-grade band; fifth- and sixth-grade orchestra; vocational electives teachers; and physical education electives teachers.
The scenario was desperate enough that if the referendum question would have failed, all of the programs, as well as related instructors, would have been unfunded for the 2013-2014 school year, and the length of the school day would have been cut by one hour as well to save on utility costs.
Such losses in the educational system do a tremendous disservice to children. All children need to have exposure to music, to have an opportunity to learn how to play an instrument, how to read music, how to sing. Children need to be exposed to art, learn how to mix colors, how to draw, see things in perspective, explore their minds' eye.
Education today is struggling to meet the federal government's No Child Left Behind act, which has set target goals that nearly every educator one talks to, agree can never be met and maintained.
In a perfect world, such education excellence for all children would be possible and doable again, in a perfect world.
But as we all know, perfection is a word that is not often achieved in our world. Our federal lawmakers need to step out of their ivory towers and realize that not every child learns at the same rate. Everyone is an individual, different in his or her own way. The last time a government attempted to legislate perfection, a couple of names come to mind Auschwitz, and The Holocaust.
Granted, we're talking about educational standards, but then again, there are some mighty unrealistic expectations floating around that need to be grounded and made a little more realistic the sooner, the better.