(Update: Boy, my post below already has generated some interesting email. From Newfane, one person told me that the principal at Newfane Elementary has issued a directive to teachers that NO STUDENTS ARE TO BE RETAINED. Furthermore, teachers are not to raise the issue of any special education testing with parents either during conferences. The speculation is that the school board apparently will balance its budget on the backs of children who actually need the help.
Well, this is what you get when you have a school board member who complained that her son had to do school work over break and then he gets busted selling pot in the school parking lot just a few weeks ago. What's the saying that the fish rots from the head down.)
Education is important. I think you'd find few people who would disagree that statement. But in the face of Governor David Paterson's proposed budget cuts to education funding, the rhetoric and hyperbole are in full swing.
In the Lockport School District, where preliminary reports indicate that the funding cuts would lead to the elimination of 23 jobs and the closing of one elementary school, Superintendent Terry Carbone is urging the public to contact state legislators to ask them to reject the proposed reductions. Carbone went on to say that passing the cuts would "put our most natural resource, our students, in jeopardy." Fire up that hyperbole train, Terry.
Sadly, anytime a school district is faced with a budgetary issue, it always seems to be putting the students in jeopardy. Frankly, I'm goddamn sick of it, and I don't think I'm alone.
First of all, consolidation of the Lockport School District is way overdue. Eight elementary schools in a community the size of Lockport is completely ludicrous. Christine Neal was the only superintendent in the history of the district who had the courage to broach the topic of consolidation, and she was run out of town by a group of gutless cowards.
Secondly, the district has continued to add personnel at an alarming rate over the past decade, despite a declining population and student enrollment.
Thirdly, why does it always have to be the kids to take the hit? When was the last time anyone ever heard a district official or a teacher's union say "hey, we know things are tough, we won't take a pay raise this year to help out the district"? Ummmmmm, how about never.
Fourthly, we all know that the tax burden in Niagara County is heavy. We also know that the overwhelming majority of that burden is driven by school taxes. No one cares, as Carbone says, that "per-resident tax rate has not increased in the past six years". We care about right here and right now.
She reminds me of the Niagara County Legislature back in the early 2000's when after raiding the fund balance to keep the tax rate down for six years, they raised taxes 22%. No one cared about the six previous years, they just knew that they had to choke on a massive increase because of the financial smoke & mirrors game. Think about that before you try to use that as a rationalization, Terry.
The New York State teachers' union (NYSUT) is the most powerful lobby in the state. They raise and spend millions of dollars in elections, and they threaten candidates with their endorsement or lack thereof on a regular basis if a candidate does not bow to their pressure. Meanwhile, the taxpayers continually get screwed. By the way, New York State spends more per student than any other state in the nation on education, but regularly finishes in the middle of the pack when compared to other states. This state is the epitome of the old saying "throwing good money after bad", and it needs to stop.
I don't care if the Lockport School District cuts 100 jobs and closes five schools. And yes, I have kids in the district.
I am sick and tired of hearing how devastating it will be to the kids if they have more than 17 kids in a classroom. When I was in elementary school, we had 30 kids in a classroom, and most of us received a sufficient education. When this "standard" of 20 kids in a classroom became acceptable, I have no idea, but it's garbage. I'm going to go out on a limb and prognosticate that it was driven by NYSUT.
The bottom line is that every district in the state will be impacted by budget cuts. How they handle it will tell the difference. As a taxpayer, I'm telling the district that I cannot shoulder anymore of this burden. Do what you need to do to keep any tax increase to an absolute minimum. And don't fret so much about the kids - they're much more resilient than you give them credit for.