Letter to the editor: Smarter cuts defy a levy increaseThe school board is asking voter approval to levy $6 million, $8.5 million or $11 million over the next 10 years to resolve issues for which it claims there are no other options.
The school board is asking voter approval to levy $6 million, $8.5 million or $11 million over the next 10 years to resolve issues for which it claims there are no other options. The district also wants to impose a four-day school week if none of the higher levies is approved.
Voters will be asked to deliver a message to their school district about operating prudently within the limits of current funding, around $22 million per year. This request comes at a time of unprecedented economic challenge and hardship for every resident of Lake County, with no real relief in sight. It also comes at a time when per pupil funding for the district has not been negatively impacted, but has actually increased by more than 20 percent since 2005.
The school district argues it must cut services or raise taxes in order to continue operating effectively.
In its proposals, the school board has seen fit to shift the entire burden of the suggested cuts to the families of its students, to its lower-paid “non-professional” employees, and to the communities its families reside in. Nowhere has there been talk of sacrifices by management or teachers through adjustments in compensation or benefit plans. To the contrary, these folks will apparently enjoy any shortened school week with no impact on current compensation or benefits. They might even see pay increases if any of the referendum levy proposals are passed.
Although teachers agreed to a wage freeze the past two years to avoid layoffs, this was during a time when most Lake County working families were hit with pay cuts, longer hours, benefit reductions and job and health insurance losses. Retirees now see no increases in Social Security payments while medical and property ownership costs have gone up. Most businesses suffered losses in income, and many have closed.
Now, students are being encouraged to bring pressure on families and county voters by worrying over whether their educations will suffer, they’ll be properly prepared for college, or extra-curricular activities will be impacted. They have apparently been enlisted to put their concerns in writing, and are providing letters to the school board.
Students shouldn’t worry. Research suggests that 90 percent of differences in proficiency between students can be explained by five factors: days absent from school, hours spent watching TV, pages read for homework, the quality and quantity of reading materials in the home, and the presence of two parents in the household. Money spent on education is only one of many factors making up the remaining 10 percent of the difference. Between birth and the age of 19, children spend only about 9 percent of their time in school and 91 percent of their time being influenced elsewhere.
The school district does have another option: Cut costs in a way which is reasonable, respectful of all involved, reflects the more than 14 percent drop in student population since 2005, and considers professional layoffs acceptable but a last resort.
The quality of our education system will not suffer. The school district must respect the new economic reality, and begin to make the same tough choices and sacrifices as the rest of us. There is no other sustainable path which will carry us forward into a future positive for all.
From Mark Broin