With school taxes the hot-button issue of local politics, I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about “school reform.” That is, bring a bottom-line-focused, data-obsessed corporate management style to our local public schools. Make taxpayers the “customers,” student achievement the “product” and the district superintendent the CEO (that’s Chief Executive Officer, not Chief Education Officer). “Profit” comes in the form of cutting costs and boosting “production” (i.e., test scores).
But according to some area educators, we are approaching this scenario at an alarming rate.
While some kids raise money for good causes with bake sales and car washes, Andrew Jacono plans to climb Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.
“I’d like to get sponsors, but it also would be great for people to pledge, say, a tenth of a cent for every foot of elevation I climb up the 19,341-foot mountain,” the Manhasset High School sophomore said of the adventure, slated for this coming July, hoping for nearly $20 from everyone who makes that pledge.
With school budget season underway, most of us have our attention focused very close to home. We’re concerned with the local district’s budget, how much our taxes will go up (“Hey, what happened to the two-percent tax cap?”), and figuring out how we are ever going to prevent escalating employee health care and pension costs from driving us to despair, if not to a low-tax state like Alaska.
Here in Nassau County, we have some of America’s best public schools. Certainly, some of the most expensive ones. While we gripe about the costs, the mere threat of canceling lacrosse or marching band typically guarantees that the school budget passes.
Most of us in these parts don’t know much about agriculture. Daffodils, arborvitae and tomatoes, sure. But to personally grow something the size of a cow? (Or to put it in a Long Island context, the size of one of those cute little Fiats?) That’s not in our suburban DNA.
But you can. In fact, you should try growing a giant pumpkin. A humongous, outrageous and nearly Godzilla-size gourd/squash that will wow everyone around you, and you will remember for the rest of your sentient existence. I’ve done it, and it is just about the most fun you can have in your backyard without disturbing the neighbors.
School districts are presenting their finalized budgets, which will be put before voters on May 21. For most, the prime question is, “How much are my taxes going up?” While that is important, budget season also gives community members an opportunity to take a more detailed look at their district and its finances, including its priorities, which areas are receiving the greatest funding, and how well the district is positioned to meet the challenges of educating its students, both now and in the future. Four experts in school administration shared their insights on school budgeting and questions that community members should be asking to gauge their district’s financial health.
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