At what point does cutting and slashing such things as programs and teachers during budgets reach a point where the quality of education our children receive seriously begin to suffer?
Do not get us wrong. We are not here to blast school boards for the hard choices they have to make. We vote them in and entrust them to make difficult choices that mean balancing a budget which is fair to taxpayers while offering our children a quality education.
There are common themes that keep creeping up in recent years, including retirement costs – something that no board, whether it be school or municipality, has any say over. Quite simply, it is what it is and there is nothing that can be done to change those costs from a board perspective.
You also often hear superintendents talk about sitting with the heads of teachers unions to work on agreements that often lead to wage freezes and concessions.
There are also the early retirement incentives offered in an attempt to save costs. For example, at Lake Shore, 12 district employees have opted to take the incentive. What is unclear as we enter the final stretch of budget discussions is what kind of savings it will have on the budget. Are these positions that will need to be filled or eliminated all together?
With the cost of living continually increasing, how many times can you go to the same people and ask them to take a wage freeze. Gas and food prices are continually rising and at some point, they have families and realistically can only make concessions for so long, and understandably so.
Where else do you slash and cut?
Another major issue boards are dealing with these days is dealing with the 2 percent tax cap levy. There is the option of presenting a budget to voters that is above that figure, but in order for the spending plan to pass, at least 60 percent of voters have to vote “yes.”
We admire all of those fine men and women who ran a campaign and now must make these hard choices without getting paid to do so.
Each year, there are usually changes to boards in elections, or someone decides not to seek reelection. We do not envy the issues future boards face, because it may get even worse.
Now it is reaching a critical time where the quality of education may begin to suffer. So much time and effort is put on state mandated testing in schools. Now programs are in serious jeopardy. Music, art, athletics and other programs unfortunately have to be part of the discussion.
Who is going to suffer? The students. The very people these budgets are supposed to be helping.
The purpose of school is to be able to provide a quality education. In recent years, there has been a great number of teachers who have seen their positions eliminated and many who have taken early retirement.
How are our students going to receive the best education possible if the educators keep leaving, class sizes get larger and the types of educational programs offered keeps shrinking? How many talented musicians may miss out on the chance to not only represent their school, but perfect their craft?
The bottom line is we all have our own individual talents which lead us down the path to our futures. Whether it be in music, athletics, business, medical or wherever we end up.
Those talents and interests are often discovered during your formative years. Students typically choose what college they attend with the idea of getting a higher education in a field they want to study for a career. Those ideas hatch from what they learn from grade school through high school.
Our education system feels like its breaking down, and at no fault of our boards. We admire their hard work and dedication. Something needs to be done in Albany though before this system totally fails.