For Washington's public school system, this fall is a time of feast and famine:
Textbooks are in such short supply that some teachers have stopped giving homework because they do not want scarce books to leave their classrooms.
Programs have been cut back in foreign languages, art, and music.
Many old buildings are shabby with peeling paint and water-scarred ceilings.
Layoffs of 30 to 90 non-professional aides are being planned, a cut that threatens to disrupt security programs.
At the same time:
Teachers have just received a 7.05 per cent pay rate, making their salary scale the highest among area teachers and bringing their average pay up to $19.323 for the 9 1/2-month school year.
Programs for handicapped children, though still smaller than what their supporters seek, now receive nearly twice the funding they did four years ago. These include $3.3 million in tuition payments for about 500 children attending special private schools.
About 20 new public schools and additions have opened in the past three years. All of them are air-conditioned. Four have indoor swimming pools. At least three have closed-circuit television systems. Many have unused space that has been turned into offices.
Pension casts have soared with cost of living increased. Since 1975 the school system's contribution to the teachers retirement [WORD ILLEGIBLE] has [WORD ILLEGIBLE] from [WORD ILLEGIBLE] million to $21.3 million. [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE] [WORD ILLEGIBLE] [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
The most important of these are special education for the handicapped, [PHRASE ILLEGIBLE] order and U.S. legislation, and the school system's [PHRASE ILLEGIBLE] of free nursery schools and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE] [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE] [PARAGRAPH ILLEGIBLE]
Both systems are somewhat similar to the process used in setting the pay of U.S. workers, but they are radically different from that of most Americans cities where the trade-offs between pay scales, tax-rates, and services that can be afforded are the central part of annual budget debates.
"The school board has nothing to do with setting pay even though it amounts for most of our budget," said board vice-president Carol Schwartz. "We've written letters to the City Council. I've made statements that the raises are outrageous. But the city government doesn't listen."
On the other hand, leaders of the Washington Teachers Union like the present system very much.
"There's no question that the (pay-settings system here has been an advantage to the teachers) over the years," said union resident William Simons, "After we won collective bargaining [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in 1967, we were able to do pretty well with Congress . . . Now we've become very active in City Council races and we intend to continue to be."
Among the steps that the school board [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to balance its budget last year was to cut the $2.7 million needed to buy new books. At the time officials said there were so many books in storage that there would be no serious problems this fail.
Although Supt. Vincent Reed said most schools still do not have serious textbook shortages, many individual schools mostly junior and senior highs, report they do.
For example, students at Chamberlain Vocational High, 14th Street and Potomac Ave., SH, have complained that most of their books are old and [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and that in most classes there are so low books that teachers won't allow them to be taken out of giving homework.
At McKinley High School 2d and T Streets NH, principal Athel Liggins said some parents are paying for textbooks for their children. He said the school is trying to raise $6,000 to buy the books in needs.
Students and teachers at Deal Junior High School, Fort Drive and Nebrasica Avenue NW, held a talent show, Thursday and Friday nights to raise money for texbooks and also buy some science equipment that is in short supply.
Serious book shortages also have been reported at Wilson Senton High , which [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and at Shepherd Elementary School, 14th Street and Kalmin Road, NW, where parents have raised stock for a book fund.
Several principals said the textbook shortage has been worsened because many books are lost by students every year, and fines for lost or damaged books generally are no longer collected.
"It used to be that you could hold up a grade or not let a student be promoted, if he didn't pay for lost books," said Wilson High principal Maurice Jackson. "But several years ago the school board said we couldn't do that, and now we don't have any hold on them."
Deputy Superintendent Edward G. Winder said that even though some schools have shortages, others have a surplus of textbooks. He said administrators have been trying to have books sent where they are needed, but this has proved difficult because of [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
"Everybody who has surplus books is hiding their stuff," he remarked. They don't know what's going to happen to them in the future."
Winner said the school system has no central book depository and no master inventory of what books it owns.
The cutback in foreign language, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and music programs in Washington's elementary schools took place in September when 70 teachers, mostly in those fields, received layoff notices. Claudette Helms, the school system's personnel director said 59 of the teachers have since been rehired, most in temporary positions. But she said none of them are back doing their old jobs and the program curtailments remain in effect.
In addition, Helms said the school system will probably send layoff notices within the next month to about 80 to 90 nonprofessional aides. Some of them help teach reading or assist in kindergartens, but Helms said the largest group affected probably will be the community aides who help maintain security in junior and senior high schools.
Overall, the number of teachers employed by the school system has dropped by about 600 since 1974, to approximately 7,000. Although the decline is roughly in keeping with the drop in enrollment - down 18 per cent since 1970, officials said average class [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in regular schools has increased somewhat because more teachers have been assigned to special education classes and nursery programs.
According to the school board budget office, average class size is about 26 or 27 in elementary and junior high schools and about 31 in senior highs. However, teachers and students report some classes of more than 40 at Deal, Wilson, McKinley, and Woodson High School, 56th and Eads Streets NE.
On the other hand, several schools are seriously under-enrolled, notably Anacostia High and the Ellington High School of Arts (formerly Western High School in Georgetown.
Officials said teachers will be re-assigned in mid-November to even out average class size throughout the city.
Meanwhile, D.C. teachers expect to receive their 7.05 per cent raise in paychecks Tuesday.
The raise was set by the City Council at the same rate given to federal government employees, but it is substantially more than that negotiated by teacher associations in the suburbs.
As a result, the salary scale for Washington teachers, for many years at mid-level of the area now is the area's highest - about $1000 above second-place Arlington for most teachers with comparable education and experience.
The starting salary for Washington teachers with a bachelor's degree is $11,824 this fall, compared to $10,758 in Arlington, $10.251 in Prince George's, $9,980 in Montgomery, $9,963 in Alexandria, and $9,908 in Fairfax County.
At the top end of the scale, city teachers also are substantially ahead. Those with master's degrees and 15 years experience, for example, earn $23,065 while teachers with similar qualifications earn about $2,000 less in Prince George's, Arlington, and Fairfax counties, and about $2,800 less in Montgomery County and Alexandria.
The overall average teacher salary is still higher in Arlington, which has the area's highest proportion of older teachers with advanced degrees. However, on average, Washington's teachers now earn more than those in all the other suburbs even though five years ago they had the lowest average in the area.
"Teachers still aren't getting paid what they should be paid," union president Simons declared. "It used to be that teachers wer more miserably paid than anyone else.Now they're just getting into some kind of decent shape."
Winner said the average salary is higher now not only because the pay scale has risen but also because the average experience and education of DC. teachers has climbed sharply, moving them higher up the scale.
Last fall, he said, 47 per cent of the teachers had 12 years or more experience compared to the 28 per cent in that category six years earlier. About 55 per cent had enough post-graduate credits to earn higher pay, compared to just 25 per cent earning higher salaries because of post-graduate credits in 1970.
The hgher salaries have led directly to another increased cost for the school system - higher pensions, which can average up to about two-thirds of a teacher's final years pensions have been supplemented by automatic cost-of-living increases. Like salaries, the pensions are not set by the school board. They wre established by Congress and now are administered by the city government.
The school building program, which has given D.C. some of the larges most elaborate new schools in the area, is proposed by the school board and must be approved by the city government and Congress.
However, construction projects are listed in the city-wide capital improvements budget.They are financed by 30-year U.S. Treasury loans, and debt service costs are not included as part of the school budget.
As a result, new school construction does not have to compete against programs in the current expense budget, and during the past six years, despite their large price tag (about $260 million, they have aroused almost no controversey or opposition.
On the other hand, maintenance and repairs are part of each year's regular school operating budget, and are paid out of current taxes. Schwartz said spending for these has been deliberately cut back in recent years to pay for teacher salary increases and to try to avoid layoffs.
To stop school buildings from deteriorating, some parents group, mostly in middle-class neighborhoods, have done painting and repairs themselves. Elsewhere, peeling paint and minor vandalism have been left uncorrected, although officials said major breakage and damage is corrected.
As a result, well-constructed older school buildings have turned shabby throughout the city, while new buildings are bright and elaborate.
Many of the new buildings have wings for after-school community activities, including classes for adults and meeting rooms for community groups. Last year, however, the school board cut these activities in three new schools to divert money to its regular programs, but Mayor Washington has added $200,000 to his 1979 budget request to finance them.
"It's absurd to have the buildings and not operate the programs in them," one city budget official said. "We're locked in to them, you know, even if the school board thinks it now has something better to spend the money one."