Building stewards and SPFT leaders took time in January and February to hold SPFT-community conversations about the SPPS budget in buildings and program sites. They brought over 61 unique ideas for cost-cutting or revenue-raising from our members to the February membership meeting to share. Our SPFT Executive Board looked at every idea and discussed them at length at our March meeting. We passed along every idea to Superintendent Valeria Silva and the SPFT Executive Board narrowed down the prioritized recommendations, based on the frequency with which they were mentioned or another relevant factor, to share with the Board of Education.
We owe much thanks to the building stewards and leaders who took time to have this important conversation with members. If our union and our members want to be a part of decision-making in St. Paul Public Schools, we must be part of the brain-storming and problem-solving as well. We will continue taking ideas and share them with the District until the final 2010-11 budget is passed.
This budget deficit was not created by a singular situation, and the solution will not be a singular one either. Every decision, whether complex, monumental and gut-wrenching like school closings or seemingly simple like no more dry erase markers, will have consequences.
Will it be possible to solve this financial deficit and better meet the needs of our students? Can we be just as mindful of the deficit that has built up in their education that doesn't get the same attention as the looming end to a fiscal year and the neatness of a balance sheet? How can we work together just as hard to insure that all of our students in St. Paul Public Schools have access to a high-quality, universal school experience that prepares them for a world that is evolving in front of us?
• Right now, students have a 100% chance of their hair stylist being properly licensed through a standards-based licensure program, but not a 100% chance of their teacher being properly licensed at the beginning of their teaching career.
• Right now, access to information doubles every 6 months because of technology, but our students are served in over 80 school libraries/media centers by just over a dozen full-time, licensed library-media specialists.
• Right now not a week goes by without some publication lamenting that there is an obesity epidemic in children, yet there is no guaranteed access to a licensed health/physical education specialist for elementary school children.
When will these deficits, and more that we could list and our members have the expertise to meet, be addressed as urgently? What role can our union members, together with our Board of Education and Superintendent Valeria Silva, play in addressing the learning needs of all our students so that we can proudly offer the best, high-quality, universal public school experience for every student in St. Paul?
It will be up to all of us to make sure that students are not merely still served as a result of these decisions, but that our students are actually better served whenever possible. If that is not possible, then we must be willing to admit that, and do everything we can collectively to remedy it.