Once again, our kids seem likely to suffer because of our lack of vision.
The Payson Education Center says it will close its doors after nine years of devotion to students who have trouble fitting into a traditional high school.
The Gila County School District set up the program to give such students a way to finish school. Payson schools had previously offered a so-called “credit recovery” program for students trying to acquire a high school diploma despite assorted difficulties. But the district shifted its school to an “alternative education” model to get the extra funding available for district-run charter schools.
Payson Education Center offered small classes and hands-on help, together with a more flexible and creative approach to education. A gathering of alumni of the program last week offered moving testimony to the difference that program made in their lives. For instance, Jessica Romo said she’s certain she would have ended up a high school dropout without the program. Instead, she’s now finishing her college degree in biology — and hopes to end up working for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
But Gila County Superintendent Linda O’Dell says she can’t afford to keep the program going, given the teacher-to-student ratio.
Of course, that might also reflect competition for alternative students from the Payson school district’s own charter school. The two programs have always overlapped. Unfortunately, the two districts haven’t worked out a plan to fill this still vital need. So we hope the incoming Payson Unified School District Superintendent Greg Wyman will take up this question with urgency.
The impending closure of PEC offers a larger commentary as well, since it’s one more symptom of an underfunded and fragmented educational system. If those students had autism or some other special education label, the state would provide the money for small classes. These students have needs just as difficult as dyslexia, but the state won’t provide the support they need.
Ironically, we all pay an enormous cost in social programs and lost tax revenue when we deny a child the education she needs.
But instead of doing the right thing, we seem content to make our children suffer for our own lack of vision.