PEORIA -- The June 29 meeting of the Peoria District 150 School Board included a discussion of the budget and some provocative public comments.
Controller Pam Schau told the board that the district budget shows a total deficit of $7.8 million. And that's if the state of Illinois pays the district the $9.1 million that it owes.
During the required public hearing on the budget, school activist Terry Knapp questioned the budget figures for busing students. "Who bears the charter school busing cost?" he asked, showing a map distributed at the last meeting revealing that students from every corner of the district will be attending the charter school.
He told of a Woodruff High School student who lives in his neighborhood, a varsity cheerleader who tried and failed to make the Manual High School cheerleading team. She will be bused 1,800 miles next year, he said, a distance equal to a trip from Peoria to Key West, Fla.
Her parents don't have a car, he said. "It's outrageous," he said, meaning the amount of busing that will be taking place, and the fact that this student won't have access to activities unless the district runs activity buses. The board voted to close Woodruff High School claiming it would save money.
During the public comments section of the meeting, Knapp continued, saying "you have excluded her from activities." Students should not be walking home from school activities, he said, citing his own son, a Woodruff student, who was robbed at gunpoint 16 years ago while walking home.
Students will ride for miles on buses, and no one talks about it, he said. "We're not saving on busing. I don't believe the figures."
Activist Sharon Crews discussed summer school enrollment, saying that her research shows students at Richwoods High School are left out since summer school is only for students at the Title I schools. Her comments are attached below.
I spoke to the board asking them to reinstate the live cable TV broadcasts of board meetings. The board has never voted on ending the live broadcasts, just announced it. The meetings now are broadcast a week late and the public comments are censored out.
I also asked them not to drop the GED program at the Peoria Housing Authority where Hedy Elliott Gardner teaches residents there. She has said all the students are District 150 drop outs, or were pushed out when they had low test scores. This gives them a second chance. They are also parents of District 150 pupils, and lack access to other GED programs.
The cost to District 150 is less than $90,000 a year. If only one of the students is kept out of prison by getting an education, the program pays for itself. The same fact is true if only one of their children becomes a good student and a productive member of the community.
Listen to the public comments here.
A video of the entire meeting will be posted on WMBD-TV's website soon, thanks to the District 150 watch group.
-- Elaine Hopkins
Here is the speech Sharon Crews made to the board, based on her research:
school is my topic again. As you know
summer school in 2009 cost about $93,000 with $27,500 paid through
tuition. That means that the “real” cost for each of
the 409 students was about $227.
Once I received the FOIAd information about class size, it was not difficult to figure out why summer school last year was so expensive. As you can see from my handout, 20 of the 32 classes had an enrollment of 15 or less. The enrollment for 11 of the 32 classes was 10 or less. There were class sizes of 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. There were only 2 classes of 20 and none over 20.Before 2003, that just would not have happened. The magic number was 20. I used to sit by the phone waiting for the principal to call to tell me I was hired when enrollment had reached 20 for a particular class. Of course, teachers sometimes taught two or even three courses during the same class period. For example, I would frequently have a class of 25 English 3 students and a couple of students in English 7.
I assume summer school is underway right now. If the original plan has been followed, there should be a total of 120 students enrolled and $40,000 of Title I money is funding summer school. If all $40,000 is used, the cost per pupil would be a whopping $333 per student—over $100 more per student than was spent for the very expensive 2009 summer school. Hopefully, that is not the case.
I did discover through my FOIA requests that very few seniors at all four high schools actually failed courses that kept them from graduating.
At Richwoods 10 seniors did not
graduate. Five of the 10 seniors needed
just 1 or 2 semester courses to meet requirements. Of the five, 2 are eligible for free lunch
but could not be admitted to District 150 summer school this year because Richwoods
is not a Title I school.
I assume Richwoods and District 150 found a way to help these young people—and, hopefully, they too got the same free ride offered the 120 students enrolled in summer school.
At Manual 4 seniors did not graduate. None of the four could make up enough courses
in summer school to graduate. These 4
seniors were from 2 ½ to 7 ½ credits short.
I would like to know how you are handling the 90 minute classes in
summer school. For example, I would
assume that a student who failed Geometry 1-2. which is a one-semester course
at Manual should have to take Geometry 1 in 1st session and Geometry
2 in the 2nd session of summer school.
At Peoria High only 4 seniors did not graduate. Three of these seniors need only ½ to 2.75 credits to graduate. One of these three, however, is not eligible for Title I funds and, therefore, not eligible for summer school. That just doesn’t seem fair.
One Woodruff student who is short only 1
credit is not eligible for summer school because he or she is not Title I
eligible. I certainly hope you found a
way to help this student graduate before the next school year.
The other 6 Woodruff seniors who did not graduate are eligible, but only two of them would benefit significantly from summer school. These two are 1 ½ credits away from graduation.
Because so few seniors needed summer school, I would assume that, as usual, most summer school enrollees are taking freshmen, sophomore, and junior classes—and I suspect that a significant number of non-Title 1 students will not be given the opportunity to stay ahead of the game.
By the way, last year 316 Richwoods students were eligible for free lunch and 90 were eligible for reduced lunch. This year’s system was certainly not fair to them.
Please start now to find a better way to offer summer school classes next year.-30-