Good luck with that one.
Chattooga County schools are already on a four-day week with claims the parents “love it.” Many among the well-meaning “no more taxes” forces don’t even know that the biggest single chunk of their property taxes go to pay for the elementary/secondary schooling that they largely do not consider to be “optional.”
More and more one hears old-timers mumbling about how in the “good old days” tax-paid schooling ended after the eighth grade and it was sufficient. Easy to silence that chatter around here: Just remind them eighth-graders don’t play high-school level football, etc. But don’t expect them to give up their various homestead/senior tax exemptions.
As for the state coming to the rescue when, quietly, the legislators up for re-election are already talking about the tax reforms, such as more sales taxes, they plan to introduce in the next session, well ... fat chance of angry parents getting a hearing. The HOPE college scholarships were converted into a debt-generation machine for families this year and the governor’s mansion is still standing.
NOR HAS IT apparently yet entered the local business sector’s mind that what’s going on will negatively impact their hometown cash registers. Consider just the county’s reductions (Rome has been doing similar things).
The county schools estimate erasing eight work days (five class ones, three planning ones for teachers) will save $2.4 million. It also says teacher/staff pay makes up 89 percent of its budget. That means more than $2 million will vanish from local paychecks.
All of that can be considered “discretionary” income for such as eating out, going to movies, buying clothes and similar, as stuff like mortgage, utilities, gasoline, groceries hold very little flexibility.
In other words, that $2 million is less to “spend freely” in the same way as expected of the visitors/tourists so eagerly courted.
Based on past convention bureau numbers, that’s roughly what all of Greater Rome’s bragged-about tennis tournaments added to the local dollar churn. They’re also the same sort of dollar that the chamber routinely says changes hands locally seven times before leaving town. Now can everybody hear the giant sucking sound being made by all this?
FRANKLY some sort of citizenry “uprising” on behalf of keeping the next generations somewhat barely able to function would be a great idea. More than leadership in the global economy depends upon it. The survival of our form of democratic government does. Did you know that, in world learning comparisons, the United States elementary/secondary school product now ranks as No. 17 and no longer is the world leader ... if it ever was?
But let’s be realistic about a problem mostly caused by poor state governance and political inability to put first things first. There’s nothing much that Floyd Countians and Romans can do about that. However, that doesn’t mean they should throw up their hands in some version of despair, or at least in reaction to “a mess too big for us to fix.”
Long somewhat isolated, too often ignored, this community has gotten pretty good at tackling problems on its own and not relying on outsiders. Teaching our children less, or with inferior quality, is no solution to anything, and we all pretty much know it.
While no longer the monetary solution it could have been given so many staffing reductions have already been made, consolidation of the two school systems so they can get even leaner and more efficient is now more important than ever. This newspaper has argued for that so long kindergartners have graduated from high school without seeing it happen. Still, with both local superintendents planning hard-earned retirements, this becomes an ideal moment to go to a single entity with a single leadership.
SIMILARLY, this space has long pointed to the true underlying cause of all public education’s difficulties and the solution:
Other than the “share” from a state that never has honored its dollar pledge/formula for schools, the only local tax source for schools is property taxes.
Even with the state not living up to its end of the bargain, so long as the real-estate bubble kept inflating the state shortfall could be either made up or blunted. When the bubble popped that was the end of vague stability as the state has become so used to the political benefits of diverting its revenues elsewhere that it wasn’t about to step in.
Local schools need another homefront funding source for education, be it a permanent sales taxes or a city/county income tax or something major yet to be invented. And, in conjunction with this, existing property taxes should be lowered.
That absolutely won’t happen overnight, particularly in a time when so many citizens are “hurting” themselves. That’s thus a long-term ideal and not a fix for a near-term problem.
The immediate solution likely lies in ourselves, and particularly parents, grandparents and others, including business folks, who must seek to make up the education time and caliber being lost. For example, actually enforcing less TV and more “hitting the books” gains importance. Instead of buying the kids video games, maybe the money should be diverted to educational computer programs.
INSTEAD OF fund-raisers for extracurricular activities and sports there should now appear fund-raisers for curricular extensions, after-school tutoring programs and similar.
Most of all, there must be an organized, grassroots “educational campaign” to teach the entire community that not only are educators as a whole taking it on the chin because of this state-created financial mess but that it is the children who are actually being used as the punching bags.
If your kid, your grandchild or any neighborhood youngster was in danger would you just stand by and watch?
Of course not.