Last Friday school superintendents, school board members, and PTA members gathered together to rally for more state aid. This is a noble effort and must be applauded but at the same time those same entities need to figure out what they are going to do if the additional state aid does not come through.
There is no denying that educational standards must be raised and that those standards have a large price tag, but is that price as high as the schools are saying it is? There is no question that the schools need additional monies from the state to implement the new standards that the state is requiring. Each of the mandates is costly and at the same time the state is talking about putting caps on how much a district's budget can be raised. So not only is the state requiring that the districts spend more money for these programs, they are denying them the money to implement the programs and putting a leash on how much they can ask the taxpayers for. The inequity of this situation is obvious but the schools also need to consider how much money is going into unnecessary costs. Some school officials make an enormous amount of money. Some school programs cost more than they are worth. Districts must consider all these things when looking at their budgets for the coming year.
Cutting programs is never easy. There is always someone or some group who is hurt by these cuts. It is not an easy task to decide what needs to be cut but if more state aid does not come in for the new mandates programs will have to be cut or taxes will have to be raised in order to service the larger number of students who would be hurt by not having the extra programs and supplies needed to prepare for the new standards.
In a perfect world the state would pay for all these things that they are requiring of the districts but this is not a perfect world. There is a conflict between agendas. The school districts have their own agendas, they want to enhance their students' educations without raising school taxes because raising taxes makes the district look bad. The governor wants to have the districts raise their standards, because that makes the state look good, but does not want to provide all the extra funding necessary to implement the raising of standards because in order to give the schools extra monies the state would either have to cut their own programs or raise taxes, which makes them look bad.
Nobody wants to be the bad guy and take the responsibility of raising taxes or cutting programs but everyone wants to increase standards. If nobody cuts programs and nobody raises taxes where does the money come from?
Legislators need to look at what can be done to get additional aid for the schools and the schools need to look into what can be done internally to raise additional money to increase standards. Right now the school districts and the state are at loggerheads. Who is right? Who is wrong? There is no answer to those questions. This is an issue that will be at the forefront for the next several years while the new standards are phased in. Throughout this process each side will need to give a little. Staying stagnant will not help anyone.
We encourage the schools to look at their spending and see where they can curb it. At the same time we encourage the state to look at their budget and see where they can find some additional finances for the schools.
The bottom line is the education of the state's children. Everyone wants the level of education to be raised but in order to do this everyone needs to compromise, while not compromising the needs of the students.