The article goes on to highlight the fact that many schools are not using the money to keep their doors open. It does not say explicitly what the money is being used for but from the comments of school board officials, the money is being used to keep schools up to snuff for the next full, academic school year. In other words, school budgets have been cut so much that even with the current stimulus package, the moneys must be dedicated to activities during the actual school year with little money left over to run summer school.
One issue that comes to mind is overcrowding. The article does not address the fact that summer school for public schools has went through a transition in the last two decades, irrespective of the economic climate. The article speaks directly to the state of summer school in Florida (but also includes discussion of North Carolina, California, and Cincinnati) so I too will speak to the transition in the state with focus on Miami Dade County as an example. Summer school used to be an option: if you wanted to go, you went. If you didn’t, you didn’t. Now, summer school is conditionally-compulsory. It is compulsory if the student wishes to pass as it is restricted to only those who would be promoted to the next level if they attended passed summer school (moving from elementary to middle, middle to high, high to the “real world”). From the combination of No Child Left Behind (and its emphasis on testing) and the current financial state of our schools, there appears to be a funnel effect at certain points in our schools. There are points in the public school life course where “traffic” slows down, not necessarily to a crawl, but definitely to a slow enough pace to cause problems. With summer school closed, there is no safety net to catch students who fall by the wayside or fall off during the year. Those students unable to attend summer school are then required to repeat the entire year even if they fail just one class.
I am not saying that summer school should be used as only a safety net to “get people along” in school for surely both students and teachers need to get their work done during the year so that the summer is used for advancement, not repetition. There are larger issues at play to be sure: the public/private school divide, teacher qualifications, funding for extracurricular activities and the like. My intentions her are just to add another layer of analysis to what summer school means for some student not highlighted in Dillon’s analysis. I am not sure how representative these rules for promotion are for other school districts. Miami-Dade County Public Schools, however, is the fifth largest district in the country so, even if at a “local” level, the impact of such financial constraints has a large impact.
I would also be if I did not point that Dillon falls into that always troubling language trap:
“But this year Florida’s budget crisis has gutted summer school. Brevard classrooms are shuttered, and students like 11-year-old Uvenka Jean-Baptiste, whose mother works in a nursing home, are spending their summer days at home, surfing television channels or loitering at a mall.”Am I being oversensitive or is this use of loitering colored? Of all the words or phrases that could capture, of all the words or phrases that connotes the connection between being at the mall and one’s age like “hanging out,” “chillin,’” “walking,” “shopping,” or something else, he chose “loitering.” I don’t know why this comment took me back to the coverage of Katrina where certain people scavenged for food while others stole.