'Home Ec' Programs Take Hit As Schools Cut Back

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

LANSING -- Michigan's teachers are fighting for what they say is the future of our state.

"We will survive," said Joyce Spangler, a home economics teacher at DeWitt High School. "We will help people be better."

She and dozens of teachers from across the state gathered at the Capitol Thursday to lobby in favor of family consumer science programs (or what we used to call home economics), practical courses in nutrition, parenting, home finance, employability -- real-life skills for students bogged down in academia.

"It gives them a break from the academics, and it's really good skills that they can take home and use right away," says Perry High School teacher Sonia Buonodona.

But their programs are being cut or removed altogether.

"It was cut in half last year," Buonodono says of Perry's program. "It was cut completely this year."

And the same story can be found at schools across the state, which has some worried: If our students are learning how to keep track of their finances or write a cover letter, how prepared will they be for the real world?

"We do use some of the concepts, some of the principles that they're going to be learning in [math, science and reading], but we apply it," says organizer Cynthia Simmons, a teacher and official from the Family Consumer Science Educators of America. "We apply it to a life situation so that they understand how important it is."

And family consumer science isn't the only victim. In the wake of massive budget cuts (about $700 million reduction in school budgets over the past two years), music and art programs have also been scaled back, leaving those here wondering: Are we making our students one-dimensional?

"They don't get a well-rounded student," Buonodono says. "They get a student who's just very academic. They don't really know how to live; they don't know how to survive."

And yet, administrators are caught between a rock and a hard place -- with funding down and tougher academic standards in place through the Michigan Merit Curriculum, they're having to choose what students will be tested on above all else.

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  • by Anonymous on Nov 12, 2010 at 09:16 AM
    Do most parents have the economic skills themselves that are necessary to prosper, or even survive, today's fast-paced lifestyle?
  • by Greg Location: Lansing on Nov 12, 2010 at 04:54 AM
    I am split on this. With so many parents left alone at home while both parents work one or two jobs to make ends meat, it makes it harder for children to get the direction, skills, and family time. For those children with a parent that is able to provide some life skills at home, it should be part of family activity.
  • by General Business on Nov 12, 2010 at 04:06 AM
    I took a course called General Business as a freshmen in high school in 1968. It taught me how to manage a house hold budget. I have applied what I was taught ever since and became my families first millionaire. While taking that course I observed how my father managed our family budget. JR and Kelly are both right. I believe learning economics at the earliest possible age is beneficial and yes more parents should teach their children the importance of budgeting. The problem today is a great deal of parents enable their kids by just handing over a twenty like candy. In my world I had to earn it.
  • by Bob on Nov 12, 2010 at 03:37 AM
    Art, gone. General music, gone. Phys. Ed., gone. Industrial Arts, gone. Laboratory sciences, gone. School librarians, gone. School nurses, gone. School counselors, gone. Home Ec, gone. The carnage continues......
  • by JR Location: Jackson on Nov 11, 2010 at 03:17 PM
    It would be a shame to have these programs be cut from public schools. They helped me and many others I know make it through some tough times when we had to budget and have to cook our own meals. I learned how to cook (very well) from these classes. It did come and still does come in handy. These are practical skills that every student should be REQUIRED to learn before graduation.
  • by Kelly Location: Lansing on Nov 11, 2010 at 01:59 PM
    What's sad is that all of those skills should be taught in the home by parents. Why is society requiring more and more of our teachers and schools? Because too many ignorant and/or lazy people are becoming parents, and they are shirking their responsibilities by allowing others to raise and care for their children.
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