It hasn't taken long for the school bureaucrats to put the knife to the throats of their students.
Faced with the prospect of a modest reduction in state aid, which would nevertheless leave funding higher than it was two years ago, school administrators are starting to discuss cutting sports programs.
The News reports today that the athletic director at the Iroquois School District, faced with what he considers worse alternatives, has suggested eliminating 10 percent of each team’s games. He also expressed surprise that some ADs are discussing the elimination of modified and junior varsity programs.
This is a knee-jerk response by school boards and superintendents that we see every time there's any kind of fiscal turbulence. They don't first seek real economies, they try to push buttons with taxpaying parents by going after programs like sports and field trips. The goal is to keep the money flowing -- and to protect jobs.
Alas, I learned during my time covering the Buffalo school district that the term Board of Education is a misnomer. They really function as Boards of Adult Employment.
I'll restate what I said in a recent post -- the proposed state cuts in school aid are not draconian, and districts can weather them without a problem if they get serious about controlling costs. In fact, economies are long overdue.
The proposed $700,000 million cut in school aid has predictably sent the education establishment into spasms. Keep in mind that education aid this year went up a record $1.8 billion, and the guv is proposing taking back less than half of that next year. Which means districts would have more state aid in 2009 than they did in 2007.
Further keep in mind that per-pupil spending in New York State is the highest in the nation. (Student performance is not). Already, superintendents are talking about cutting student field trips and the like, knowing it pushes a button with parents.
Personnel costs, however, consume the lion's share of school budgets, so I have another idea: get real about those expenses.
End pension abuses and negotiate labor contracts to cut out the goodies that are common in many school districts but rare in the private sector: allowing teachers and administrators to cash out up to 200 days of unused sick time; providing lifetime health insurance; and offering cash incentives to retire as early as 55, ten years before most of us can.
Let's also keep in mind that teacher pay continues to grow faster than the rate of inflation in many, if not all districts. Teachers typically get two bites at the apple, an annual across-the-board pay increase, plus "step increases" every one to three years for additional years of experience.
School spending needs to reflect the state's new fiscal realities.
I find it ironic that, at a time when Gov. Paterson is trying to use the state budget to fight obesity, school bureaucrats are threatening to send students to the sidelines.
Ironic, but predictable.