Friday, May 12, 2006

Register/Journal Rebuttal

Choosing to send your child to a private school certainly is a personal choice. Who wouldn’t want to send their child to St. Mary’s. It’s a wonderful small school…only 147 students. Class size ranges from 12-21 students and over the last four years, ISTEP pass rates have ranged from 86.4 to 96%. That is phenomenal. But the fact is, many in our community don’t have that opportunity. Private schools are only open to those who can afford them.

South Dearborn Elementary Schools have been doing a wonderful job. But things aren’t very good in upper grades.

South Dearborn’s overall ISTEP rate was only 65% in 2005. Those low rates are attributed to our High School where many teachers have an average class size of 30 pupils, and some students haven’t had a full year of Math or Language Arts since the sixth grade. Some elementary classrooms at SD have as many as 27 students.

South Dearborn’s suspension rate is 11.6 per 100 students. SD has the 86th highest suspension rate of 298 Indiana School Corporations. Behavior problems are always present in large schools and over crowded class rooms.

Our school board has been trusted with a tremendous amount of money. The per student state support was $4,240 in 2005. The corporation calendar boasts “an annual budget of over $25 Million with buildings and equipment valued in excess of $75 million.” I would guess St. Mary’s operates on a much slimmer per student budget, but manages to do a great job.

SD’s board also has the ability to levy taxes. The tax rate at SD has climbed 6.5 % since 2004 from 1.4338 to 1.528. It did increase, but we didn’t notice because of the assessment mess. It should be noted, that in a school where teachers have as many as 30 students in a classroom, 35.2% of that local money goes to pay debt service and only 42.7% goes to the general fund. The general fund pays teachers and a variety of other expenses. It also should be noted that Lawrenceburg has the lowest school tax rates in the county at 1.3669 AND 65.8% of that goes to their general fund. Lawrenceburg is not disposing of a school building and they have a debt service rate of .2911. Despite what the public has been told, these are largely LOCAL decisions.

If our Center Township School Trustees were sending their children to South Dearborn Middle School, wouldn’t they be a little concerned that the number of suspensions doubled last year from 77 to 158? Wouldn’t they be concerned that 133 SDMS students had more than 10 unexcused absences? If their children had been in a fifth grade classes of 25 at SDMS in 2003, rather than at St. Mary’s in a fifth grade class of 15, would have they been likely to make the first and second motions for a building project landing the corporation in additional debt of 38 million and Aurora Elementary students in a school of nearly 700 students? Would they have asked Aurora teachers for their professional opinion before the decision to convert the middle school to an elementary was made? Who knows?

The board should be working to ensure SD public school students have the same opportunity’s for a high quality education as those who attend that very fine private school in downtown Aurora. The money to make that happen was there in 2003. I’m afraid it’s gone now.


Karen Loveland

AKA “Sour Grapes”

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