Talk of South Bend school budget cuts evoke passion
By KIM KILBRIDE
South Bend Tribune
_SOUTH BEND -- Emotions ran high at this week's school board meeting when it came to the issue of the more than $10 million South Bend schools has to slash from its budget.
Two board members disagreed with one another about potential cuts both during and after the meeting Wednesday evening.
And several parents took advantage of the public comment period to plead with the board to explain the criteria it'll use to ultimately determine what -- and/or whom -- stays and goes.
No one's going to be happy with the budget cuts. We're all going to be touched one way or another," Bill Sniadecki, vice president of the board, said during the meeting. "If I end up voting for anything, it's going to have to be spread across the board, equalized."
Earlier in the meeting, the board heard a fall enrollment update for the fall in the district's magnet schools, including Riley Early College High School and South Bend New Tech High School."
Both of those were supposed to be funded by outside sources," Sniadecki brought up, "and that kind of bothers me (that they aren't fully)."__Superintendent Carole Schmidt said Early College costs about $1 million a year to run, not including the cost of college credits students earn at Ivy Tech State College. New Tech costs about half that much.
With only 43 new freshmen signed up to attend New Tech this fall, Sniadecki wondered, "How do we justify that cost for so few kids?"
The district is currently losing students and therefore state tuition dollars via vouchers and charter schools and open enrollment at neighboring public schools.
The disagreement between Caponigro and Sniadecki continued on after the meeting was adjourned.
Several parents also were vocal on the issue of the impending budget cuts.
Allie Nanni, an outspoken parent at Marquette Montessori, had some suggestions for the board on the criteria it might use in making the difficult decisions before it, specifically in terms of closing a school building, something the superintendent has said most surely will be on her final list of recommendations.
Nanni asked the board to consider the academic performance of students, up-to-date research on teaching/program methodologies, and the efficiency of the school building itself, in addition to ensuring any building closure would abide by the consent decree, which requires racial desegregation in South Bend schools.
Other parents, like James Brogdon, who is Marquette's PTO president, simply asked board members to be transparent in the decision-making process.
"Give us some idea of what your thought process was," he said, "even if I don't agree with the decision, if I can understand the thought process, I can respect it."
Oletha Jones, education representative for the NAACP, South Bend, told the board she would like to know exactly how much is spent on magnet programs, which account for nearly one-third of the district's overall enrollment.
She has much concern, she said, about the other 70 percent the majority of South Bend students.
"A lot of the resources are going to the upper 30 percent," she said, referring to those in magnet programs. "Those students will be successful no matter what."
School board President Roger Parent pointed out that the magnets are open to anyone who would like to apply. And as mandated by the consent decree, racial balance is maintained when deciding which students will be admitted to those programs.
As for the task before the board of cutting $10 million from the corporation's budget, Parent was not pessimistic.
"I'd like to dispel the notion that the sky is falling," he said. "The sky is not falling."
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