Due to the lack of funding, the Dowagiac School Board has some tough decisions to make about the future of Dowagiac Schools.
Some of the ways they have suggested saving money are "right on the money" and others are absurd.
Board member Sherry File said they need to talk about negotiating less money for teachers and administrators. During these tough economic times, withholding raises is, indeed, common practice. Recently, the Cass County Commissioners had heated discussions about pay raises for county employees.
It is our opinion that the first step for saving money in our beleaguered school system should start at the top, with reductions in pay for Peg Stowers and Hal Davis. They should lead the way in the sacrifices everyone needs to make to keep our schools running. They should set an example, showing support for the teachers, other school employees and students, by taking small pay cuts, long before asking teachers, custodians and bus drivers to give up anything.
One of the ways the Dowagiac Schools and the City of Dowagiac could possibly save a great deal of money is by pooling together to purchase health insurance for their employees.
Board Member Bill Lawrence asked if the district should be providing transportation to and from school. If the Dowagiac School Board takes away transportation from students, we feel that it will cause more harm than good. What about the students whose parents are at work or just can't afford to transport their children to and from school? What impact would it have on the community if the Dowagiac Schools fired all of the bus drivers? It would seem that drivers that have children in the school would just pack up and move to another community that has employment. Dowagiac residents cannot afford to have any more jobs ripped out from under them. The ripple effect from a change like this would be devastating to the entire city.
Peg Stowers suggested a reduction in athletics for freshman sports and keeping sports for middle school students learning the fundamentals of the game. This cut would be detrimental for students who are trying to prepare for the chance of college scholarships for athletics. The only way for some students to afford college is based on money from sports scholarships. Taking away all freshman sports would cause harm to many talented athletically-inclined students..
Although the state has rules stating a student cannot change school districts just to play sports, I am sure that parents would feel the need to send their sports-playing freshman to another school. Then if you add the factor of the possibility of no transportation, I am sure that many parents would evaluate whether or not it might be worth it just to drive their children to a neighboring school district--if they have to transport anyway.
No matter what cuts are made by the school board, they will not be able to please everyone. However, the loss of funding is an emergency that will affect our entire community. Because this is such a critical issue, the school board should form a committee made up of a cross section of our community so our citizens can be involved in the decisions that need to be made to survive this financial crisis facing all of us. If a committee were formed, there would be a wealth of ideas, which may help in making these hard choices. Although we agree this is a financial emergency, extreme cuts, suggested by the board, may not be necessary if the schools would include the entire community in the decision-making process.