Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Budget cuts hit LaGuardia juniors

Last week, a number of LaGuardia juniors found out that their math tracks are being abruptly ended. As a junior in trigonometry this year, I was expected to take pre-calculus in the fall, and take the Math B Regents Exam in January. Now, because of budget cuts, seniors will not be allowed to take pre-calc. To learn the semester of content and prepare for the Math B exam, tutoring will be offered over the summer. This is not really an option for people (like me) who have summer jobs. Also, the only math classes being offered to seniors next year are Advanced Placement classes. For the juniors are in pre-calc this year, the situation may not be much better. Calculus may be cut next year, too, giving these juniors no way to complete their math track. A letter is being sent to all colleges explaining the sudden death of advanced, non-AP math at LaGuardia.

When I expressed my concern, the assistant principal of math told me, “Write to the Chancellor and Mayor and ask them to stop taking our money away in the middle of the year.” I told her I already had, and that was the end of the conversation. But this conversation is far from over. My school has been forced to make hard choices because of circumstances outside its control. LaGuardia has done its best to maintain its unique dual mission to provide students with both good arts and academic educations. But no school should have to make the choice to end a curriculum like math mid-year, without preparation or prior warning.

If, as the Chancellor and the Mayor insist, cuts must be made, they should not come from the classroom and force schools to make decisions like this one.
Perhaps the cuts could come from the testing budget. It seems that tests are multiplying faster than rabbits; kids as young as kindergarten are now being tested. Perhaps the needed savings can come from the production and administration of school Progress Reports, which are often inaccurate representations of a school.

The pattern is scary. Mid-year crunches are resulting in the loss of teachers and classes, which are the last things that ought to be taken away. If “students” were a budget item, we’d probably be the next to go.