Schools Face Test on Budget Math

Mark Whitehous & Amy Merrick:

For seventh-grader Kyle Scarpa, budget strains affecting schools across the country are hitting where it hurts.
In the wake of the worst recession in more than half a century, many communities find themselves with no choice but to cut funding for education. In Downe Township, N.J., the cuts are hitting where it hurts.
In addition to freezing wages and jettisoning its librarian, the school he attends here in southern New Jersey will cancel his after-school remedial math and literacy classes. His teacher believes the tutoring helped him build confidence and get his average grade up to a C from a D.
“He could fall through the cracks,” says teacher Rose Garrison, noting that Kyle is among four kids in her class having trouble keeping up. “When you’re teaching exponents and you have kids who don’t know the multiplication tables, how are you going to teach them?”
The struggles at Downe Township School illustrate the challenges public schools face across America as a convergence of factors–ravaged state and local finances, tapped-out taxpayers and a reform push by the Obama administration–force wrenching change. As the school year winds down, educators are grasping for new ways to do more with less, and to remedy an embarrassing reality: Despite spending more per student than the average developed country, U.S. schools perform below average in core subjects such as math and reading.