Sunday, May 07, 2006

School Board Member Wants to Cut Budget and Save Energy
Spring brainstorms about shorter vacations, later starting times, and charging for yellow buses.

West End School Committee member Stephen Spring has proposed several ideas to cut the school budget and save energy as well. The ideas were published recently on Spring’s web blog Among Spring’s ideas are:

-Releasing one Assistant Superintendent, one high school administrator and one elementary school administrator. This would clip about $250,000 from the school budget, which he says is oversubscribed with administrators at all levels.

-Accelerate consolidation work with the City Council in the areas of maintenance, transportation, payroll, etc., but only if the City negotiates so that employees from both sides are treated well and fairly. This could save up to a half million dollars, though the savings may take a half decade to be realized.
-Create a City of Portland League for middle school athletics, instead of having students competing and taking buses all over Southern Maine. With three middle schools, leagues could be formed with sixth, seventh, and eighth graders - enough for a competitive league. Spring says that such an arrangement could save as much as $175,000. He suggests that METRO could move sports kids from Lincoln to King to Lyman Moore, but would need to make some route changes to make this possible.
-Introduce a fee for riding yellow buses since METRO will be letting students in grades 6-12 ride METRO for free starting in September. Spring proposes charging high school students $20 a month, but only if METRO keeps providing its free service. Over time, fewer and fewer high school students would ride yellow buses and would learn to negotiate the city bus system.

Spring also has some ideas on how the school department can become more efficient and environmentally-friendly, cutting down on global warming while paying attention to educational research. He suggests starting high school later because it's much warmer at 3:30 in the afternoon than it is at 7:30 in the morning, which will cut down on the burning of fossil fuels. According to Spring, research shows that high school students learn better when they’re not forced to solve logarithmic equations at 8 AM.

Spring also proposes closing school during the coldest month of the year -- probably from mid-January until President's Day, cutting out the February and April vacations, and shortening summer on either end by a week. Studies show that shortening summer break has positive effects on literacy for elementary students, according to Spring, and closes achievement gaps between those who read at home and those who don't.

Spring stressed that his ideas do not represent the thinking of either the school finance committee (on which he serves) or the School Committee.


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