The ever-present national debt has become a running joke for some, and troubles with state budgets in California and New York are leading to leaner governments.
Those same troubles are trickling down to our local governments, and the recent news that Beekmantown Central School has to close a $3.2 million budget gap show just how much government can mean to the people.
It’s long been taken for granted that kids can try out for their school athletic teams for a chance to wear the jerseys in a contest of speed and strength. The head cheerleader and starting quarterback being crowned king and queen at the prom is part of the American cultural fabric, even if it doesn’t happen all that often.
The wrestler who sits in your homeroom and took the state title isn’t just making his parents proud; he’s giving the whole school a reason to cheer.
And on the way, those student-athletes are learning valuable lessons about teamwork, consistent effort and time management. It’s not just competition. It’s another branch of education.
The same can be said of music and art, public school programs that have faced cuts and left schools a poorer educational experience.
The trend to teach to tests and not to a young mind’s abilities is easy to criticize. Students aren’t clones with digitized minds that all process data in the same way. They’re individuals, with unique interests and their own way of learning. They deserve opportunities to grow in their own way.
An education where a student’s given some ways to build their own strengths and gain new talents on the way makes for stronger individuals and a stronger society. It takes all kinds to keep a dynamic and complex civilization running.
It’s a hard sell, though. As governments from top to bottom are experiencing tighter budgets, citizens are trying to make their dollars stretch, too. School taxes are a big part of the tax bill. Schools are important for our future society, and good schools can make a home more valuable. But what does that do for a struggling family’s budget this month?
More than 40 positions were proposed for elimination in the superintendent’s budget plan. With fewer employees in the schools, the issue of teaching to a student’s strength becomes even less possible.
Class sizes will continue to grow, and extracurricular program offerings will continue to shrink. For these options to at least stabilize, creative — not drastic — measures need to be taken.
A school district’s administration is expensive. What if in the same way that cash-conscious townships share services, like plowing, schools started sharing services? Shared, centralized administration offices; shared kitchens that deliver hot food from centralized facilities; shared record-keeping; shared typists — maybe even shared superintendents.
If the music program is slashed, it’s never going to rebound. That’s just the new budget. If interscholastic athletics are shut down, they’ll never start back up. That will simply be the new budget.
Even if those critical decisions are put off this year, they’ll need to be decided soon. And the same thing will start coming up in more and more local governments. Villages in the region are weighing dissolution right now. Once something’s lost, it’s not likely to come back. What’s worth keeping? Now is when those decisions matter most. Get your voice heard in local government.
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