In a recent Class Struggle post, Jay Mathews declares that the concerns about budget cuts expressed by parents in our overly-large school district (he calls it hysteria) are “silly”.

The source for his conclusion comes from the comments of parents quoted in another Post column about our economic problems.

They are hysterically concerned about things like increased class sizes, cuts in kindergarten time, major reductions in elementary school music programs, elimination of most summer school program, and more, and in doing so are “so divorced from reality as to be comical”.

So, why is none of this important to the quality of education in our schools?

Well, because our high schools still score well in his “challenge” index, the 2010 edition of which will be unleashed in a couple of weeks (you have been warned).

Beyond the fact that his index is one of the most fraudulent measures of school quality ever devised*, it should be clear to anyone paying attention that our budget problems will most severely impact the elementary schools.

Which will then impact the high schools a few years from now.

Anyway, after making a pitch for his index, Mathews goes on to make several unsupported claims about how the quality of our schools will be maintained, in spite of major, multi-year declines in revenue, all during a time when the numbers of students continues to increase.

He partially attributes this to the fact that the county is one of the richest in the country, with many involved parents like the ones who are quoted, adults who, according to Mathews, “don’t have a true perspective”.

Among other factors he also ignores the large and growing low income neighborhoods of our county, where schools must cope with increasing numbers of non-English speaking and special education students, all of who require additional services that will also be impacted by cuts.

Areas where parents are not the vocal kind that make hysterical and silly comments and who, for the most part, can’t or don’t provide the instructional support to make up for what their kids no long receive at school.

Of course, in the end, Mathews is right that our district is far better than many in this country and will likely continue to be even after the budget is sliced (although I don’t buy his confidence that we won’t lose a lot of great teachers in the process).

However, as we often tell students, the better measure of quality is not found in comparing ourselves with others but comparing ourselves now with where we should be in the future.

*Search this site for many posts explaining why.