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Letter: Don’t Take Out Tax Rage Locally

Quality public education is the lifeblood of democracy. The oxygen that nourishes democracy’s lifeblood is money. Take away the money and public education and democracy suffer. All over the world, the most ruthlessly totalitarian countries and societies, and those most plagued by all manner of fundamentalism, tribalism and violence have the most uneducated populations.

 For years, powerful, self-serving interests—unregulated corporations and investment companies, and the politicians who are beholden to them—have siphoned off our country’s wealth, our collective oxygen. Their greed and abysmal stewardship of our collective wealth have plunged the U.S. and most of the world into a very deep and dangerous recession, leaving most ordinary people gasping for air.

Even now, these same politicians and corporate and investment executives continue to shamelessly reward themselves with perks—obscene salaries and bonuses, the best healthcare, pensions, private education for their kids—while ordinary Americans are left to struggle with greatly diminished resources and expectations.

 In these times especially, beware of candidates who promise tax cuts. Much as it seems enticing, it is, invariably, the facile, unconscionable promise of an opportunistic, ambitious politician—offering us laughing gas, instead of life-sustaining oxygen. Beware of a candidate who claims to value North Shore schools, but sent his own children to private schools. Beware of a candidate who believes his investment and business credentials qualify him to serve the educational needs of children in the North Shore Schools.

 In these times, beware of federal and state politicians who promise tax cuts, while they relentlessly withdraw funding for public education and services. Their cowardly political sleight of hand seemingly eases the public tax burden, but it really places it more heavily on each one of us personally and locally. Rather than make up budget deficits by raising taxes, the New York State Legislature mandates that school districts bail out the mismanaged Metropolitan Transportation Authority. New York State teachers retirement contributions are bundled with their own pensions and they mandate non-negotiable payments into the fund. North Shore Schools must pay Albany these moneys, whether or not our budget passes or fails.

 Outraged? Please direct your rage at the politicians and corporations who got us into this mess, not at our children and our schools. Channel your rage into insisting on school finance reform, campaign finance reform, political term-limits and corporate oversight. Do not dismantle North Shore’s quality public education. In these times especially, our public education must remain the one undiminished resource and expectation that every North Shore child can depend on.

 Our schools, like all of us, have tightened their belts in every imaginable way. There is no more transparent budget and budget process than that of the North Shore Schools. Get the facts. Make an informed decision. Don’t let misplaced anger or willful ignorance determine your vote. Preserve quality public education for our children. It is their future. It is our country’s lifeblood.

Karin Barnaby