The dust is settling in area school districts following a budget season that saw many talented educators let go due to financial restraints and earlier this week, students began to make their way back to school for the 2012-13 academic year.
One of the great aspects about students, no matter what age they are, is that they know how to adjust. Perhaps we do not give our students enough credit sometimes in regards to how well they adapt to change – perhaps in some ways, better than parents, teachers or administrators.
For area students, they will still be offered good, quality educations.
For the rest, including boards, administrators and teachers, they hold the education decisions of our students in the palm of their hands.
No longer can there be a grace period where school can just simply start, and the thoughts of next year can come into focus beginning somewhere around the first of the calendar year.
As 2012-13 begins, thoughts are going to begin almost immediately toward 2013-14. Unfortunately, this is the state we are in.
There are so many factors that school boards need to decide to create a balance of quality education along with fiscal responsibility to those people who voted them in as board members.
In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will unveil his proposed annual budget. Something that will be analyzed, slashed and looked over time and time again to see where money can be saved to ease the burden for taxpayers.
Included in that proposal will be what the governor anticipates handing out in terms of state aid for school districts. This is a number that has seen reductions in recent years, and with state mandated costs continuing to increase, the aid is continuing to dissolve.
This does not even begin to talk about the tax cap levy placed on districts.
Teachers in area districts, including Hamburg and Frontier, were asked to make concessions, including wage freezes, in order to reduce the overall number of positions cut.
But as cost of living continues to increase, is it fair to return to these same people who graciously opted to accept a pay freeze for a year and not increase their salaries again another year? Being laid off is a worse alternative, but it simply is not fair to return to them at budget time and ask them to make the same concession again.
The first day of school is behind us, and now the question school boards should be thinking about is, how do they keep from cutting positions in 2013-14 without putting a major burden on taxpayers, many of whom are facing their own personal financial challenges these days?
There is no simple solution. It may take months – if at all – to be able to come up with a solution to that problem.
But it needs to be talked about as soon as possible. It can not linger, even until November, when many area boards began to discuss budgets last year. It is the world we live in. This is going to be an on-going issue it is going to take some out of the box thinking to keep the recent trend of teacher layoffs and program cuts to stop.
Sadly, our students are paying the price for the poor decision making of many people through the years, including state lawmakers, who helped put the state in fiscal ruins.
What do we hope for 2012-13? We want to see our children receive the best education possible and come away with many cherished memories.
We also want to see our students end the year knowing that the education system they are leaving at the start of summer vacation will essentially be the same, if not better, than the one they will be returning to when the 2013-14 school year begins.