Hood River's Cory Roeseler recently sponsored a "Cash for Comments" essay contest, with $100 in cash prizes for "thoughtful ideas to balance the school district budget."
All Hood River County School District students were invited to write essays no longer than 200 words with their ideas on ways to help the district close the $3.5 million funding gap.
Roeseler introduced two of the four winners at Wednesday evening's school board meeting. (The other two winners had asked to remain anonymous.)
"With the grim news of the additional budget cuts, I thought it would be interesting to turn this into a learning experience," Roeseler told the board. "And that's how Cash for Comments was born.
"We set out not to solve the budget problems but to give the kids an opportunity to voice their concerns; an incentive to weigh in on the proposed cuts," he said.
In all, 53 essays were submitted. The identities of the writers were concealed from the judges. The winners each received $100 in cash and an additional $150 to be donated to the Save Our Schools fund of their choosing (elementary, middle school or high school funds, or "maximum impact" fund).
Save Our Schools, formed recently by concerned parents and community members in response to drastic school district budget cuts, has partnered with the Hood River County Education Foundation. The organization is working to raise as much money as possible by April 6, when the school district's budget committee meets to make final decisions on proposed cuts for next year.
(Below are two of four winning essays. Two winners wished to remain anonymous.)
By Ethan Happy
Parkdale Elementary School
To save money, our school can take Friday off and leave four days a week. We can also offer more after school classes that people pay for. I do not want to cut P.E. because it is one of my favorite classes. Music is also a class I like.
By Elizabeth Gobbo
When facing a daunting budget crisis, it can be difficult to find a simple solution. However, I have some suggestions I think could help the school make and save money.
One thing that could be done by the school board administration is to make one or more levels of the schools year-round (maybe just elementary school, or possibly just all schools in the district). It is much cheaper to pay to cool schools I the summer than to pay for heating in winter. While students may at first be unhappy at the idea of going to school during the summer, a schedule could be worked out in which students get a vacation every three months or so, thus spacing out the summer vacation time and making the school year's education more fluid and even.
Also, clubs can each arrange a fundraiser once or twice a year. With each club raising more money for the school in some way, surely enough can be raised to make some difference.
While these still don't solve the budget crisis, they are both helpful and valid suggestions that, if considered, could keep money in the schools while keeping the many beloved programs and jobs in place.