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The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation.  The interactive site brings daily news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.

Surviving the Budget Cuts

Mark Twain Elementary does what it can with less

By Alysa Goethe | September 23 , 2010
Kid Reporter Alysa Goethe with Mark Twain Elementary librarian Beth Campbell. (Photo courtesy Alysa Goethe)
Kid Reporter Alysa Goethe with Mark Twain Elementary librarian Beth Campbell. (Photo courtesy Alysa Goethe)

Sixth grade camp is something every 6th grader at Bettendorf Middle School in Bettendorf, Iowa looks forward to. But this year's sixth graders will have to do without. Camp has been cut from the budget.

"I was really upset when I found out that they were cutting 6th-grade camp," said Erica Barnett, who is in the first class not going to camp. "But I'm hopeful that maybe someday they will get enough funds to do 6th-grade camp or another fun activity."

Zach Goethe, an 8th-grader at Bettendorf Middle School, said he learned a lot from the camp when he went two years ago.

"Some kids only experience camping through this program," he said. "We got to learn and have fun with activities and camping at the same time. Sixth grade camp was the best part of 6th grade."

All around the country, school districts like Bettendorf are facing budget cuts. The camp was not the only line item eliminated to tighten funds. A language arts teaching position at the high school was eliminated, as well as a science and an instrumental music position in the middle school. The art and music programs have been reduced to part-time, instead of full-time, positions. How reading is taught in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades has also been affected.

But Bettendorf is also one of the luckier schools districts. Although administrators did have to make some tough decisions, the Bettendorf School District has money in reserves to help it through the worst of the budget cuts.

Mark Twain Elementary is an urban school in Bettendorf, Iowa. Mark Twain has about 350 students in kindergarten through 5th grades. The class sizes range from 21 to 28 students. All the students at Mark Twain have access to computers and laptops. Technology is very important to the Bettendorf Schools.

"The best thing about our school is the technology," said Kaitlin T., a 5th-grade student there. "It's very advanced."

All 2nd- through 5th-grade classrooms also have Promethean Boards, which are interactive community computers that everyone can use at once. The Mark Twain Library was the first to get a Promethean Board in the district, thanks to Beth Campbell, the librarian and media specialist. Her love of reading and learning shows in how she interacts with and teaches the students.

Campbell has made the library a comfy and inviting place for the students to relax and unwind with a good book. She added couches and chairs to make the library cozy, as well as a large selection of books with many different types of genres for everyone. Campbell strives to provide "an outstanding, beautiful library," she says.

The teachers at Mark Twain work hard, says the principal.

"All the teachers try their best to help the kids succeed and reach their goals," said Principal Caroline Olson. "The teachers always focus on what's best for the kids."

Fifth-grade student CeCe B. agrees.

"Our school has so many hardworking teachers," she told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

Her statement was backed up by Dr. Theron Schutte, Superintendent of the Bettendorf School District.

"The district has a strong support for students to be successful and a strong desire to have kids succeed," he said.

Budget cuts are a reality of the economy right now, and they have affected a lot of people's jobs. School administrators in Bettendorf are focused on maintaining the quality of education while watching the bottom line.

"In Bettendorf, we try really hard to be responsible with money, so the budget cuts aren't as bad as they could have been," said Katie Rokusek, a 5th-grade teacher at Mark Twain. "We are all working at being smarter with materials and going green."

OUR SCHOOLS, OUR FUTURE

In conjunction with NBC News' Education Nation, Kid Reporters around the country have interviewed their teachers, principals, and classmates about the state of education in their communities and what the classroom of the future might look like in the special report Our Schools, Our Future.


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