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Core Curriculum Controversy

As the state continues its battle to balance the budget, area schools are bracing for potential cuts.

If the current state budget proposal passes, that would mean the loss of $215,000 for the Lodi School District next year.

That's part of the reason why the district has decided to cut its core curriculum.

"I'm shocked that math and language arts have been reduced by quite a bit," says Cynthia Cook, a concerned parent.

Last month, the Lodi School Board decided to get rid of the middle school block schedule, cutting math and language arts by 50%.

Monday night Lodi residents spoke out against the already approved staff and schedule changes, asking the board to reconsider for the sake of the students.

"By the time next year's 7th grade students move through our middle school and graduate to 9th grade, they will have had what amounts to two full years less of language arts than those students in the past seven years," says language arts teacher Sue Westbury.

Jean Steele, a concerned resident and parents, says, "We just feel that core based learning such as math and language arts, which is reading, writing and comprehension, should have a greater weight than some of the other classes that are taught."

Under the recently adopted plan, class time will be equal for all subjects. That comes on the heels of national recognition the district received for its project-based math program, a program that's being cut.

"We have enjoyed recognition statewide, nationally and internationally through the research we have been doing with the University of Wisconsin," says Lodi math teacher, Carolyn Thompson.

In a statement, District Administrator Michael Shimshak writes, "I believe there are some significant misperceptions about the effects of the board adopted staffing plan for 2005-06 and how it might affect students...each year the administration develops a staffing plan based in part on available resources..."

That's the problem: money.
But the board is also considering approving an administrative position, costing the district thousands of dollars.

"We as a community want a voice as to whether the board of education is going to put a higher priority on administration or put a higher priority on teachers," says Steele.

According to district officials, language arts and math non-proficient test scores have increased in the last three years.

They say the change is needed not only to save money but also to fill vacancies and create a reading specialist position.

After numerous testimonies, the board began discussing how to keep the block program and still keep costs down. Members are expected to decide Monday night whether they will reconsider the staffing plan.

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