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Cuts to School District violate city's character

BY GUEST OPINION | APRIL 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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We've always valued education. People come here for school or work and fall in love with the atmosphere of Iowa City because we have genius and artistry in the making. We live in an educational oasis when the rest of the country is drying up, in part because we recognize what is best for our students.

Most of the proposed budget cuts in the Iowa City School District will result in part-time teachers being cut and full-time teachers taking on more and larger courses. In real time, this means the "extras" are nixed, and the core classes are crammed. This is detrimental on two fronts. One, we abandon our holistic history of education in favor of the bare, required minimum. Two, that bare, required minimum is a miserable 30-plus students.

Personally, there are times when the only reason I rationalize getting out of bed in the morning is to hear City High teacher Tom Yates talk about how Esau, the big hairy orangutan of Genesis, is going to be thwarted by Jacob (Bible as Literature). Before Loraine Smirl split the advanced-placement Calculus AB into two classes, we had almost 40 students. There wasn't enough time to answer all of the questions from homework, let alone cover new material. My U.S. Literature Honors class last year had 35 students before 10 of them changed sections for the sake of lowering the student-teacher ratio. And now more cuts?

I understand that money doesn't grow on trees. But rainy days prelude growth, and we started a "rainy day" fund for a reason: So that, when the time came, we wouldn't have to sacrifice our history of quality education. I can't imagine being able to maintain our priority of education with the budget cuts as proposed. It seems to me the district's upper management should be focused on the well-being of our students. A well-balanced education is key to a successful community.

I shed my delicate, politically sensitive coat.

If the upper management 20 years ago had made the decisions we are making now, our current gaggle of superintendents wouldn't have the salaries they do. There is a reason our crime, unemployment, and truancy rates have been enviously low. Primarily, Iowa City has a bunch of hoity-toity doctors and lawyers and team of black-and-gold men in tights. But before we had any benefits from the university, we had a beautiful community.

Our schools have encouraged individual growth in areas beyond the mainstream, and it works. Sports teams instead of gang violence; art instead of vandalism; an intellectual challenge instead of habitual boredom — we've done our best to make every student feel welcome, important, and like a genius in her or his own right. This doesn't happen without our dedicated staff and faculty.

I take the proposed budget cuts as a personal blow. I, my peers, my little sister — we're not good enough for you to use your brains and come up with alternatives? I recognize this is a communal effort to find solutions, but Superintendent Stephen Murley, my piddly tax dollars from working in a grocery store and dealing with irritated pregnant women who think the world is my fault are not going into your back pocket to be sat on.

So get up and find something better, because this is insufficient. Get rid of our extra assistant superintendent, investigate cost-friendly alternatives to a brand-new building for your five committees, go without air-conditioning, consider our financial weather as rainy enough for you — or, heck, take a cut from your own salary.

Find something better.

Rai Tokuhisa is a senior at City High.


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