Education Cuts: When money’s tight, hey … who needs math anyway?


Numbers scene from CBS series
chools around the nation are facing serious budget shortfalls. Ann Arbor Public Schools in Michigan, for example, is a district looking at as much as a $21-million budget deficit by 2011. That’s the home of the University of Michigan, where I teach, and education is very important around here.

You’re likely facing similar pressures where you live: So, where do you think schools should cut? This week, please share your thoughts on how these pressures are unfolding in your region.

Last week in my area, news also surfaced that the Saline school district, south of Ann Arbor, is considering a proposal to cut the high school math department, replacing teachers with online math instruction. The district notified the teachers union in December that math teachers might be let go, according to, a newspaper and Web site.


The irony is that the news broke on the same day that Obama was honoring educators who excel at teaching math and science.

The Saline proposal was a call to arms for area parents and teachers. The superintendent eventually backpedaled, saying that the proposal was just part of a budget exercise in which everything was fair game. Perhaps it was just an opening gambit; perhaps not.

What do you think of proposals to cut math in tough times? offered an online poll about this (at the end of the news story linked above), asking: “Would you support a plan to move part of a public school district’s math program online as a cost-cutting measure?” About 1,000 people have responded so far: 83% said no, 14% yes, and 3% are undecided.


Personally, I’ve always thought that there are three types of people when it comes to math: Those who can do it and those who can’t.

Education cuts affect us all, even if we don’t have kids in public school. Cutting education is like eating the community’s seed corn.

What would you do?
    What would you cut?
    What is sacred?

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