Everyone has heard the saying "today’s youth is tomorrow’s future" and though for some this may cause a small amount of worry, most would like to think that this future will be a bright one.
In our society, the majority of a child’s education comes from what they are taught in the school system. This knowledge is intended to be sufficient for students, allowing them to become well-rounded members of society. However, when looking at this year’s budget cuts that are being implemented by the Brandon School Division, one begins to wonder if that goal remains possible.
For the last few months, the 2014-15 budget cuts have been at the front of many people’s minds. Admittedly, Brandon is a growing community and money must be shuffled around to be able to afford to educate an ever-increasing number of students. Recently, many ideas have been discussed, allegedly to find the option that best suited everybody.
For budgeting purposes, the school board predicted a 1.5 per cent growth in enrolment for the 2014-15 school year. This estimation would see an increase of 124 students, moving the total tally to 8,437 within the Brandon School Division.
On Feb. 18, after nearly eight hours of deliberation, BSD trustees agreed to cut 11 full-time teaching positions and raise taxes by 2.9 per cent. The question of whether it will be feasible to teach and respect the various needs of the elevated number of students, in addition to the existing student population, with almost a dozen fewer teachers now remains.
Additionally, a point that must not be overlooked is where the money is going. Surely it is understandable that money must be put not only toward classrooms, but to the general upkeep of the building. But to what extent? Naturally, our schools should be safe, clean, well-kept buildings with working necessities, as well as certain amenities that will assist students’ learning. But is it possible that too large a sum is being put toward esthetics?
Perhaps instead of defining a school by its looks, the quality of education that it offers should speak for itself. Sure, it’s great to have schools with a presentable appearance, but it must be remembered that what the school’s guests think is perhaps not nearly as important as what the students themselves experience.
Prior to the decision-making process, community members were offered the chance to answer survey questions, either in person or online, where they were able to pick the option they preferred. Of the 486 people who answered the survey, 90.27 per cent supported a four per cent tax increase, which would have resulted in no reductions to the current education system. Although those who completed the survey only account for a small portion of Brandon’s population, it can be assumed that they were likely those who felt most passionately and would be most affected by budget cuts.
Notably, the division’s mission statement asserts that "the Brandon School Division strives to enable each student to achieve maximum intellectual, emotional, social and physical growth." This already difficult task may be nearly impossible to achieve without access to enough thoughtful and committed teachers.
With fewer teachers and more students, class sizes will inevitably augment, giving teachers less time to individually assist their students. As all students learn at different speeds, one of two things will happen: those who learn slower will be left behind, or those who learn quicker will be left with nothing to do. Neither will be able to perform at their full potential or achieve maximum growth. In other words, the only way one could fully benefit from what the school system would have to offer would be to remain mediocre.
If this community or country as a whole is expected to advance, mediocrity should not be praised over excellence and passion. The world is in need of students who want to learn and the people responsible for creating this thirst for knowledge are the teachers behind them. As a community, we should be attempting to nurture this desire. The only way to do that is to offer each individual student, as much as possible, the services that suit their needs.
Brandon is growing, but it is not worth the risk to let a student fall through the cracks, which will undoubtedly happen with these increased class sizes. An educated populace is the key to advancing in this world and the extra money in your pocket is not worth sacrificing overall quality of life.
» Rikki Bergen is a Grade 11 student at Neelin High School.