By Alexandra Smith
PLUM, Pa.—The Plum Borough school board passed a final 2013-14 budget in June, and many community members are upset with how the budget was balanced.
The $56.8 million spending plan eliminated the district’s driver’s education and family and consumer science programs. The board set the property tax at 18.75 mills, the maximum allowed under state Act 1 limit. Act 1 establishes an annual index that determines the percentage each school district in the state can raise taxes.
Three family and consumer science teachers were laid off as a result of the budget cuts, and some students and Plum residents are disappointed about which programs were chosen to be eliminated.
Tammy Tarosky, a Plum resident and mother of two students attending Plum high school, said she doesn’t agree with how the Plum school board balanced the budget. “I don’t understand why there is a need for budget cuts when Plum is building the second new school in two years,” she said.
Tarosky said her youngest son, Jake, wanted to take classes that are no longer available. “Jake wanted to take cooking and driver’s education, which were both eliminated,” she said. “Now we will have to pay for Jake to take a driver’s education class to decrease our insurance payments.”
Lynne Braun, a former Plum high school family and consumer science teacher whose job was eliminated due to the budget cuts, said that she attended many school board meetings and people were upset by the proposed budget. “Parents spoke out about the preschool program. Students spoke at meetings if they were interested in going into child development, teaching, or child psychology,” she said.
“They totally ignored a whole group of students. Students that were interested in getting into dietetics. Teenagers don’t know how to handle money. There are latch key kids, and they don’t know how to cook,” Braun added.
Braun also said that the elimination of family and consumer science classes made an impact on students with individualized education plans. “These students may have learning disabilities of some kind, so our classes were pretty heavy with those students,” she said. “What’s going to happen to those kids? They’re not going to know how to manage money and learn other life skills that these classes teach.”
Braun said the loss of her job has affected her in many different ways. “It’s affected me professionally and personally,” she said. “I really loved my job. The school code clearly denotes that family and consumer sciences shall be taught in the middle level curriculum. Not maybe. But shall be taught. It’s in the Pennsylvania school code.”
Nikki Ruffner, a senior at Plum high school, said she misses a few of the classes that were eliminated due to the budget cuts. “I took a sewing class in seventh grade, a cooking class in eighth, and in tenth I took teen living. They taught me things I need for life like making meals and writing checks and handling credit cards,” she said.
Ruffner also said that she wanted to take more family and consumer sciences classes this school year.
“I wanted to take growing with children, which is a daycare class, so I could work with my mom over the summer,” Ruffner said. “I ended up taking forensics instead and the class if full, which harms the learning because there’s more disruptions and less one-on-one.”
Braun said she’s not sure if there is any chance the family and consumer science and driver’s education programs will be included in Plum’s curriculum again in the future. “Maybe in a few years,” she said. “I think a lot depends on who is on the school board. There are people up for election. There are people who are running for election on the school board that spoke on our behalf, so you never know.”