'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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