Voters rejected the school budget twice last year, but we rarely see letters from any of them explaining why. Are they dissatisfied with management? Is it simply that they can't afford higher taxes? I'd like to see more letters-to-the-editor, from other than the same few regulars, explaining why.
The PWEA is one group attempting to represent these voters, but they are routinely attacked when they try to explain voter dissatisfaction.
The recent letter holding the PWEA responsible for the ruckus at their Nov. 17, 2005 public meeting is too much to let go without comment. At that meeting, Frank Russo and Peter Wezenaar presented a brief overview of PWEA positions and then opened the floor to the public. After a few speakers supportive of PWEA's efforts, one gentleman took the microphone and said he was appalled that, while soldiers were fighting in Iraq to protect democracy, the PWEA was taking divisive positions that split the community. Shortly after, another gentleman took the floor and declared that the PWEA offered nothing and was full of hate. From what I understand, someone in the audience responded to him with an obscene gesture that complimented his own speech, at which point they almost came to blows.
The first gentleman failed to grasp both (1) that a majority rejected the school budget and (2) the basic concept of democracy. The second added to that list (3) failure to grasp the basic concept of civility. He could have disputed any one of the PWEA's positions, but he chose instead to insult them.
The failure of the PWEA was in not having anticipated such a hostile audience (composed mostly educators) and invited the police to attend.
Assuming that the majority who rejected last year's school budget can be drowned-out, shut-out or simply priced-out-of-town is a risky approach to passing the next one. Next year's proposed budget is set for a 6 percent increase. That is too much for most voters to accept. If it fails, services to children will be cut per the contingency budget posted at www.portnet.k12.ny.us.
To avoid cutting services to children, the BOE has to reduce this to a more acceptable 3 to 4 percent increase. If the PWTA is ready to put children ahead of their own self-interest, they'll work with the BOE to find the solution.
Robert T. Schill