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Sure-fire Budget fix

by Dan Bernstein

News Of The Near Future:

After months of delaying the inevitable, all Riverside County school districts have now closed their budget gaps by adopting the innovative Students Collaborating And Mentoring Students program (SCAMS).

"My faith in today's students is stronger than ever," sobbed one board member. "I know they'll come through. We can't help them anymore."

SCAMS has sparked controversy in California due to its key labor-saving feature. Because SCAMS requires no counselors, coaches, administrators or teachers, tens of thousands of education positions throughout California have been eliminated.

"I know some call it No Adult Left Standing, but it's a sure-fire budget fix," said one Riverside County superintendent, taking a break from cleaning out her desk. "Students will have to teach each other now. Thankfully, they'll still have the Internet and, in some cases, unlimited minutes. If they have trouble with a math problem, they can call a friend."

Like other districts throughout California, Riverside County's school boards regarded SCAMS as a last resort. In the agonizing months leading up to the critical votes, local districts had announced layoffs of thousands of employees and approved several pioneering initiatives, including the 1-for-20 program (1 principal for every 20 schools).

Various districts had also voted to shut down their entire science curriculum except for the dissection of area roadkill; eliminate history instruction on all events, historic figures, dynasties and eras predating 1973; eliminate "X" from all mathematical equations; melt down school-owned brass instruments and sell them as scrap; switch to a full 2010-11 virtual CIF schedule in which all games were to have been played on video screens, saving millions in travel, equipment and stadium maintenance.

"We were trimming faster than a liposuction quack," lamented one administrator. "It just wasn't enough."

County districts plan to transition into SCAMS by bringing in teams of grief counselors to help students understand that, from now on, they will be self-educating. Counselors typically spend up to 20 minutes at each site.

"The kids take it pretty well," said a veteran counselor. "Who wouldn't want a crack at running the asylum? After the novelty wears off, they usually get down to serious mentoring."

But there are limits. "There are some things kids just don't know," said a former teacher of the year who has launched a start-up hot dog cart business and tutors inmates because prisons still hire teachers.

"Riverside County should expect to see a sharp drop-off in math and science skills, a spike in skateboard and tattoo sales, and a widespread increase in Chinese language proficiency. Like all humans, kids have a powerful instinct for survival. Now that the county's districts have voted in SCAMS, our students know exactly which language they need to learn if they have any hope of finding a decent career."

Reach Dan Bernstein at 951-368-9439 or dbernstein@PE.com

— Dan Bernstein
The Press-Enterprise


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