Photo: Steve Thurston
Parents asked the school board to maintain funding for the “Even Start” preschool program, to keep classes at their current sizes, and to stop block scheduling in the middle schools. They spoke at the public forum on the Arlington Public School District’s proposed budget Thursday night, March 8.
They also asked the school board to fund teacher salary increases, and thanked them for their work. The school board listened but did not respond, as is normal in these hearings.
The Even Start Family Literacy preschool program at Barcroft Elementary will not receive the federal grant money that had been partially supporting it, so the superintendent proposed that the program be shifted next year from full- to half-day, according to the proposed budget.
The program serves low-literacy parents and their young children through the school system’s Family and Consumer Sciences office, school documents say.
Since the parents learn along with the children in the program, many of the mothers and children talked about how the parents become English-literate and therefore better able to help their children with schoolwork.
“The program also helps families that come from other countries so that we can understand how the school system works,” said Rosa Ruiz, a mother of four. Like the other Latina mothers at the forum, she can speak English, but prefers Spanish on important topics and spoke to the board through an interpreter. She has a child with special needs, and Even Start has taught her how to provide for his needs, she said.
Wendy Argueta echoed the comments of others: Even Start not only helps her child, but it helps her.
“It teaches us how to educate our children,” she said. When her two-year-old son starts preschool this fall, “I know that he’ll be at the same level” as other children.
The night was largely friendly, with people stating their arguments regarding the proposed one-student increase in class sizes and middle school block scheduling.
Arlington’s educational model requires small classes, and the district has already increased class sizes in recent years, speakers argued. Class sizes increased by one student in the fall for grades nine to 12, and during the 2010-11 school year by one student for grades kindergarten to three and six to 12.
John Schumann asked the board to consider class size increases on a school-by-school basis. “Reject the one-size-fits-all [approach] embodied in this budget,” he said.
Ami Foster reminded the board that it’s easy to say the classes will have “just one more student.” But one more student in each class means many more in common areas such as libraries, cafeterias and playgrounds.
Under block scheduling, “Music and language will suffer,” said Robert Wilkie. “This is a solution in search of a problem.”
“Block scheduling isn’t some miracle wonder,” said Tuckahoe Elementary School parent Ron Mulvaney. Plus, it won’t help the most with what his school needs: lowered enrollment now.
“It’s long overdue time to change boundaries,” he said. Arlington parents rose in a vitriolic block to stop redistricting when it was tried a couple years ago.
Mulvaney admitted that idea is politically unfeasible, a knowing chuckle spread through the room.