Friday, May 20, 2011

The Ultimate Sin

A school district exists for the purpose of educating and preparing our children for the future, and yet here we are considering cuts to the very classes we should be protecting, never mind the fact that there are programs we should be augmenting, such as elementary computer education.

We didn't get here overnight. The seeds for this disaster were planted many, many years ago, and they were fed by ongoing neglect by past boards, administration, staff, parents and tax payers. This neglect wasn't caused by a lack of caring. I think it's safe to assume that all people involved do care about the children. And this is why we are struggling as a community as to which things should be sacrificed from the budget. We don't want to cut programs, we don't want people to lose jobs, we don't want taxes to increase. Yet all of these things are on the table because we (and I mean everyone) failed to make tough choices in years past. Life teaches us that procrastination and pain avoidance are never solutions. Our troubles only grow worse when we do that. Lesson learned, Neshaminy.

The article Teachers defend programs on chopping block, appearing in today's Courier Times, includes reaction from teachers about potential cuts to phys ed and foreign language classes. I can't blame them for wanting to keep these programs. Nobody can. These people are educators who believe in what they are doing, and they care about their students. Unfortunately for them, while phys ed and foreign language are important, this district has neglected the math. When your revenue can't support your expenses, you're in the red. Negative integers are not acceptable by today's economic standards.

That brings us to the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Our cost of labor is too high. There's a difference between proper compensation and unaffordable spending. Some years ago, Neshaminy chose the latter. We have made some strides in recent years - our Support Staff has made sacrifices. Our Administration has made sacrifices. And we can't even promise that more won't be necessary. This situation makes the contract impasse with the NFT all the more frustrating. And this situation will continue to get worse while some attempt to use strategies like "restructure costs" as a way to avoid the inevitable, and long overdue, conclusion that teachers must contribute towards their health care premiums. It's not the only issue, but it's an awfully big one.

They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. In similar fashion, the NFT leaders ignore the math as programs are cut and jobs are on the line. Sacrificing children, teachers and tax payers, not in hopes of making education better, but done solely to preserve the status quo. That is the greatest sin of all.

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