It's not about not supporting education

| 30 Sep 2011 | 09:39

    I am not surprised that the school budget was again defeated for a second year in a row, albeit by a thinner margin than last year. I am however surprised that both Superintendent Morton and outgoing BOE members continue to live in denial. Morton said he didn’t understand how the budget didn’t pass since Sparta citizens ostensibly support education. At issue is not whether or not the citizens support education. It’s a function of what the taxpayers can afford. To be giving out raises when taxpayers have lost jobs, experienced pay cuts, lost benefits, and suffered declining home prices and foreclosures, is simply a slap in the face. Further, the proposed budget gave money to extracurricular activities but gave nothing to restoring busing. Getting children to school, on time, at a reasonable start time, without snarling traffic seems to be a lower priority to the board than sports. The town is sharply divided on the school budget issue. Some have claimed that nobody will want to live here because of the degrading quality of schools. And yet, many people are already leaving the town because they can no longer afford the taxes. Our property taxes have increased 50 percent in the eight years we have lived here, while services and the quality of education have been cut. In the middle school alone, children now have the equivalent of 90 minutes a day of hang-out time, plus the extra half hour in the morning if they take a bus to school. At the same time, we have one of the highest paid superintendents in the state. While there are many exceptional teachers who deserve the above average pay and benefits, there are others who do not. The broken union system of having mediocre and inferior teachers getting the same pay and benefits as the exceptional ones needs fixing. Morton, the board, and the teachers should not interpret the budget defeat as a sign of the town’s not caring about education. They should interpret as a vote of no confidence that our taxes are being well-spent and that the district is spending beyond what is affordable in the current economy. When asked at the budget presentation in March what the board would do if the budget were defeated, Morton flippantly replied the board might submit it as is to the town council. I can only hope that this year the new Town Manager Troast will support the will and economic realities of the voters, unlike last year. Cindi Howson Sparta