Economics

O Cruel Economy That Makes Schoolchildren Suffer!

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The AP reports that "Shaky economy hits kids," meaning the following hardships will be visited upon the K-12 population like frogs falling from the sky:

Children will walk farther to the bus stop, pay more for lunch, study from old textbooks and wear last year's clothes. Field trips? Forget about it….

In rural Minnesota, one district is skipping classes every Monday to save fuel. On the other days, classes will be about 10 minutes longer….

Kids will have to stay awake and alert later in the day, and some parents will need to find day care on Mondays. But it's a small district, with 700 kids, and many parents are self-employed with jobs in farming or construction…. 

Teachers once asked for hand sanitizer and tissue; now they want copy paper. Lenelle Cruse, the state PTA president in Florida, said last year's budget was so tight, Jacksonville schools actually had a toilet paper drive….

In Waterford, Conn., parents might have to pay for annual trips to New York or Boston. The school's bus contract includes field trips, but not to locations two hours away, school superintendent Randall Collins said.

Now, instead of visiting Revolutionary War landmarks in each city, students will probably visit nearby Hartford to see the Connecticut Capitol or the Mark Twain house…..

Montgomery County, Md., is cutting funds for its award-winning mathematics team. The district will still pay the coach's stipend, but parents will have to step in….

In Montgomery County and elsewhere, they are holding off on ordering new textbooks….

In Oxford, Ala., the bus has always made stops at every house. But this year, kids in fifth grade through 12th grade will have to walk to neighborhood bus stops.

Smaller, more rural districts require smaller measures: Paw Paw, Mich., is moving to all-day kindergarten, eliminating eight bus runs in the middle of the day.

Schools are also getting creative with computerized bus routes and heating and cooling systems. Montgomery County, the sprawling district that serves the suburbs of Washington, D.C., has a master control room straight out of NASA that lets one person regulate the temperature in every single classroom….

Jesus Christ, is this the worst of it? If so, please just stop. As someone who had kids in the Maryland's Montgomery County schools for a couple of years, I can guarantee you that they could choose to cut something other than funds for "an award-winning" math team with ease. Indeed, the district seemed hellbent on calling three-day weekends whenever snow was forecast for a Friday morning. And where are the calls to make administrators ride their bikes or carpool to school?

I feel genuinely rotten for kids whose school lunch programs might get dinged on this (again, money is fungible and you'll note that you don't hear about schools cutting football expenses) and stuff like that, but most schools are run so poorly from a money-management positon that tales of tight finances just don't cue the waterworks in me. Schools will use any pretense to a) keep doing things some old and inefficient way and b) so they need to getting more money from every possible source, whether public or private. Per-pupil spending is up over 300 percent in constant dollars since the early 1960s. You'd think somewhere in that increase, schools would figure out how to fund meaningful stuff and drop crap.

More tales of woe here.

And about that "shaky economy" here.