Friday, February 11, 2005
SAVING MONEY WITH ALERT PARENTS, TAXPAYERS AND SCHOOL BOARDS
This coming Monday, Valentine’s Day, a bunch of students from the Fremont Public Schools get to get out of school and go down to Lincoln, complete with a free sack lunch, and lobby state senators about a proposed bill that has to do with bullying related to sexual orientation.
Now, according to the school receptionist, Fremont High School does not let kids out of school to go to Lincoln if their team makes it to the state basketball tournament. But for this, they get to go.
It’s sponsored by the Gay-Straight Alliance under the direction of English teacher Jessica Gall. An attempt to reach Miss Gall Friday was unsuccessful to ascertain whether taxpayer dollars were paying for all this.
See for yourself on www.fpsweb.org/news/fhsnews.html
I got an email from an irate parent in Fremont who is fed up with educators indoctrinating vulnerable students on radical political matters like this, when existing school codes of conduct and 10,000 other rules and regulations already adequately protect kids from being bullied and harassed.
I’m really not picking on homosexual issues in schools, but also the other day, another friend with a seventh-grader in an Omaha middle school bent my ear about how her daughter used the slang expression, “Oh, that’s gay!” in a student-to-student private conversation about the decorations and theme of an upcoming dance. She meant, “Oh, that’s dumb!” but succumbed to the current slang usage.
Well, the middle-school counselor happened to overhear it, and what did she do? Kindly and gently remind the girl not to use speech that could hurt someone’s feelings? Noooooo. She abruptly hauled this seventh-grader down to her office, shut the door, and basically threatened her. She said the girl was liable to get her mouth slapped for saying that kind of thing. You guessed it: turns out this counselor is someone with an atypical sexual orientation herself. With the door shut, and the teacher’s well-known sexual orientation and menacing body language, it was a frightening situation. Talk about bullying! The student was shaken, but when the mom, a single parent struggling to make a living, called the school with concerns about how this was handled, she was basically told to buzz off.
Now, on the other hand, the Family Research Council recently sent out an article praising former fighter pilot Stephen M. Hunt, a school board member in Fairfax County, Va. He sent a letter on his personal stationery to the district's 24 high school principals urging that they not simply teach "that homosexuality is normal and natural." He suggested that one way to achieve greater balance would be to host speakers with an "ex-gay perspective." Hunt's letter was hardly "gay-bashing"; he explicitly said, "If a person does choose a gay lifestyle, we should respect their freedom, their safety and their choice." Of course, all hell broke loose and people were calling for Hunt’s head on a platter, but he’s hanging in there. He told it like it is, and that’s all anybody can do.
Why do I bring all this up?
Because stuff like the first two examples, in Fremont and Omaha, is going on all over the place, involving all kinds of issues, in our public schools. It’s almost unbelievable how many schools – probably yours – have pro-homosexual books like King and King, Heather Has Two Mommies, and Gloria Goes to Gay Pride in their school libraries and in classrooms, and yet nobody squawks. Unfortunately, in issues like homosexual activism and countless others, the response of Mr. Hunt, in the Virginia example, is the exception rather than the rule. Parental and public involvement in our schools is almost nil.
If schools are going downhill and if money is being wasted, it’s only because parents, taxpayers and school-board members have been silent, apathetic, depressed, passive and hopeless.
That’s what’s got to stop!
Here’s a mini-action plan from my soon-to-be-released CD-ROM, “Show ‘n’ Tell for Parents,” that might give you some ideas:
Exposing Wasteful School Spending
Q. We’re a rural district with one high school, struggling with declining enrollment and declining ability to make ends meet in the school budget. We just found out that a nonprofit organization has donated $5,000 for a motivational speaker to come in and give a pep talk to teachers at the start of next school year. It figures out to an awful lot of money per teacher, which seems weird since they are underpaid to begin with. Meanwhile, the outside faucets don’t work at the grade school, there are floor tiles chipped and coming up in the classrooms, and the paperbacks are so yellowed with age you can barely read them. What can be done about things like this?
First, be understanding. Educators, like everybody else, want significance. They deserve to have their spirits lifted just like people who work in every field. That $5,000 might be spent in a lot of more practical ways, as you describe. But maybe your school board and administrators believe lifting teachers’ spirits is the top priority.
You might call a speakers’ bureau, a local business and a local civic group to compare what they pay in the way of an honorarium for a speaker like that, and share that information quietly and privately with a school official. If you don’t embarrass the educators, they might be able to cancel that speaker, get someone for a lot less money, and tactfully get the nonprofit to help the school meet more immediately, tangible needs, like paper, pencils and books.
What else can citizens do when school dollars appear to be spent frivolously? One of the best things is to get a group together, call your district and ask for an hour’s walk-through of the budget. Get the school finance officer to explain to your group the major budget items, plus expenditures in areas likely to have some overspending, such as continuing education, staff and student travel, central-office furniture, landscaping, lobbying, entertainment and so on. If you see problem areas, pitch in. See what trims you can tactfully bring about.
Homework: Your Chamber of Commerce, civic group or retired business group might provide volunteers to help with this.
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