Guest blog post by Rich Mestas, Chief Academic Officer, GOAL Academy, NCLR Affiliate
As GOAL Academy’s Chief Academic Officer, I normally spend my days working on developing rigorous curricula to challenge our young Latino students that GOAL Academy serves throughout Colorado. Recently, my time hasn’t been occupied with this important task, but with finding creative ways for GOAL Academy to continue providing the highest quality education possible. Faced with budget cuts, as a direct result of Title I funding cuts brought on by the federal budget sequester saga in Washington, GOAL Academy staff has been trying desperately to provide the same level of quality education that we have always provided, but with substantially less funding and in communities that heavily rely on them.
The implications of the sequester on GOAL Academy are real and palpable. There is a critical need for reading education at GOAL. Eighty percent of the students who arrive at GOAL read below grade level; 85 percent are below grade level in math. Without the support from Title I funds, GOAL Academy, like other public schools across the nation, is being asked to do more, with less funding, for our most vulnerable students. The constant reallocation of funds from one part of the budget to another has had an impact on all our programs and has made it difficult for us, from an operations standpoint, to continue to provide educational services to our students.
The dangerous effects of sequestration cannot be ignored. GOAL Academy is not just educating Colorado’s kids—we are molding and developing productive members of society who will provide the backbone of our workforce and who will make up a substantial portion of Colorado’s future tax base. Cuts to Title I could also affect the number of students GOAL is able to graduate, leaving many of our kids susceptible to criminal activity or other negative behaviors. Communities in Colorado and across the nation cannot afford to see a drop in graduation rates in exchange for a short-sighted budget fix.
Continuing sequester-level funding is tantamount to mortgaging our future. It’s counterproductive and it ignores the needs of our students. Instead, what we need is a balanced and thoughtful approach to deficit reduction. The responsibility for improving our fiscal outlook and reaching a budget solution must be shared across all segments of society, including corporate entities, and not put on the backs of low- and middle-income families, our youth, and the elderly. Reductions in investments today will prove doubly harmful tomorrow. Congress must put families before politics.