We are once again approaching that time of year when discussion of the school budget begins. To me, it is rather disconcerting that we are still not addressing the true issues facing the school budget which is not how much we spend but how we spend it. Every year, the budget becomes a polarizing issue because emotion, rather than logic, takes the lead. I cannot believe that any correct-thinking individual would want anything but the best for our children, from both a humanitarian point of view, as well as from a selfish self-interest, property value point of view. Yet what happens is that the largest and loudest discussion is on the dollars expended, and not how to make our school system the best and most efficient.
For example, from a monetary point of view, the six day rotation/one hour class system, is not the most efficient. It does not maximize teacher's classroom time, nor is it most cost efficient. From an educational point of view, this system where students have major courses four out of six days, means that based on a 180 school year, students are only getting 120 hours of classroom time. If the system was a five day rotation ("A" days through "E" days instead of "A" through "F"), and the classes were 45 minutes long, students would receive 135 hours of classroom time instead. There would be time to have more periods throughout the day and students would have the ability to take the same amount of electives. The argument has often been given that this system is used because it gives students time to utilize more school facilities, but the reality is that the vast majority of high school students do not do so! In the long run, there would also be a cost savings because teachers would be able to more closely be scheduled for their 20 hours classroom time that their contracts permit. Our present system is extremely inefficient because the majority of students have large numbers of "free" periods that most of them do not use to enhance their educational pursuits. It also causes a strange period 4-1/4-2 overlap, which adds to the inefficiency of the system, because teachers are also by contract permitted specific minimum amounts of time for their lunch. Changing this system is but one example of an efficiency that in no way hurts education (in fact, it might be argued that it would improve it, and many other school systems, including those that used to have six day rotations have reverted to five), yet is fiscally and operationally more efficient.
We should also examine our school bus utilization, because even a casual observer would notice that many of the buses arrive and depart school with significantly lower than capacity loads. This might take some analysis and work, but making it more efficient would save money while not hurting education in any manner.
Most Port Washington taxpayers have received more than a doubling of their real estate taxes in the last four years. In theory, school taxes are the largest part of those taxes. Yet, our voted upon budget increases have not been anywhere near that figure. New building and development is going on that further increases the tax revenues, which theoretically should stabilize our real estate taxes. However, because of the Nassau County reassessment process, our assessed values of many homes have risen, and thus the taxes collected in Port Washington have risen significantly. Where have those monies gone?
Isn't it about time that Port Washington residents demand the best? We deserve excellent schools run cost efficiently, and everything else that this community has been promised. What have we received that equates to that doubling of our taxes?
I hope this time around we actually address our real issues, and let the educators educate, but let some "think outside-the-box" people optimize our "bang for the buck!"
Richard Glenn Brody