Lansing elementary schools cut programs and teachers

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LANSING – Art, music and physical education courses are being cut out of elementary schools in the Lansing School District, with plans to integrate the programs into core classes.

The issue:

Art, music and physical education teachers would lose their hourly jobs and become “consultants” for teachers of core curriculum. Only 23 of the district’s 50 art, music and physical education teachers are certified in in those subject areas of core curriculum, making it more difficult to keep or find a full-time job.

DSC_0110These teachers would act as part-time consultants, and work actively with teachers of core curriculum in the district to integrate the cut programs into teaching when needed, according to Bob Kolt, spokesperson for the Lansing School District.

“The intention is to create an education program as an asset and provide a very positive structured program that involves the community,” Kolt said.

Teachers face a 15 percent pay cut, and the school district faces a $9 million deficit. Kolt said teachers were a part of the solution by agreeing to sign the five-year contract. The contract includes a $5,000 stipend for teachers if they gave up their daily planning periods.

Ron Krauss and Wendy McWhorter are two elementary art teachers who will be losing their full-time jobs, but may work as consultants. The hours they would receive as consultants are unknown.

“Teachers have so much to do already,” Krauss said of losing planning time in place of teaching. “It’s almost physically impossible to not be worn down because they have no time.”

Krauss has been teaching in the Lansing area for 11 years. He said he went to school with McWhorter to earn teaching degrees in art.

“It’s not about losing the jobs, and we want to stress that,” McWhorter said. “It’s about what the students and their families in this community are going to lose.”

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Wendy McWhorter
Henry North Elementary

McWhorter had concerns about taking away these classes and the effect it would have on children.

“The bottom line is we give hope to some kids that aren’t good in math, aren’t good in science, social studies or writing,” McWhorter said. “But through art, music and physical education, they feel confident.”

McWhorter said the board is rushing the teacher’s union because of right to work and that there were not any meetings held as a teaching group to talk about the issue.

The right to work law passed last year “bans mandatory payments from employees to the unions that represent them under collective bargaining agreements,” according to the Detroit News. If contracts are in place before the law takes effect, then the teachers unions are able to collect dues.

“I don’t blame teachers,” McWhorter said. “I blame that this was pushed.”

At the school board meeting:

McWhorter began her speech by naming two issues facing the school board for young elementary school students: vision and integrity.

“We have not seen declines in elementary students, but this may change if visual arts is taken away,” McWhorter said.

Another teacher focused on the effect it would have on teachers, not just students.

“We’re not necessarily cutting the programs, we’re cutting the teachers,” said Lansing schoolteacher Ryan Ward, a Lansing school district elementary teacher.

Superintendent of the Lansing School District, Yvonne Caamal Canul ended the board discussion.

“We have no intention of eliminating arts from our program,” Canal said.

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