School Comments by Robert Mayer The readers who read last week's "School Comments" are familiar with the actions taken by the school board over the last three years in order to deal with the revenue shortfalls. That action has necessitated budget cutting and spending of the reserve fund. The article listed specific budget cuts that were made. Those cuts have had a negative impact upon the district but they have not been devastating.
Future budget cuts will be more serious. There are some areas in which the board has made no cuts or very few cuts. One such area is that of class size in the elementary school. The average per teacher/pupil ratio in K-5 is 1:20. Most of us probably attended elementary school in classes larger than 20.
There have been many significant changes in schools and families over the last two decades. Smaller class sizes have allowed the schools to meet the challenges of these changes while providing a solid educational foundation in the elementary grades. If the school board has to cut elementary programs average teacher/pupil ratio would be 1:25 or 1:26. Such an increase would have a negative impact upon the children.
Another budget cut that has not been made is the reduction of academic elective courses at the high school. The curriculum at VHS is very diversified. There are courses for college preparation, advanced placement classes, fine arts, and vocational classes. The selection of required and elective courses has produced very well prepared graduates.
VHS graduates attend many of the nation's best colleges and universities. College entrance exams for VHS graduates have always ranked among the highest in the state. The graduating class of 2002 had the highest ACT scores of all the state's largest schools. Reducing curricular offerings will have a negative impact upon the mission of Vermillion High School.
The school board has not eliminated any co-curricular activity, although a number of budget reductions have been made within the activities program. The co-curricular program is viewed as an integral part of the school's mission which is: "to empower all students to maximize their success in our global community." The co-curricular program allows us to teach teamwork, sportsmanship, sacrifice, fair play, dedication, and hard work.
The co-curricular activities of forensics, music, and athletics have recorded astounding successes in competitions. The students and the community have always taken great pride in the accomplishments of the activities program.
The area of transportation has not been subject to the budget axe. Students are transported safely throughout the town and countryside. The future of such transportation will need to be evaluated if budget cuts must continue.
The $600,000 opt out request is for the purpose of maintaining the quality programs that the school offers. The tax increase is not designed to add new programs. It is hoped that the children now in school and those who come after will have the same opportunities as those children who went before them.
The school board and I are frequently asked questions about the opt out. There is one question that surfaces regularly. If there is a large increase in state funding, is the school obligated to request all of the $600,000 opt out money? The school board may request all or a part of the $600,000.
If the school board needed $300,000 instead of $600,000, it could request the needed $300,000.00 only.
Based upon projections by the school's business manager the $600,000 will be needed each of the five years of the opt out. However, there could be changes bringing about the need for a lesser amount.