THE NEWSDAY SOLUTION

6/9/03

    Now that Plainview, like most districts in the state, has passed its budget, it is appropriate to reflect on where school districts are going next year given that we can be reasonably sure that the economy will not have improved significantly and the state and national governments will have worsening revenue pictures. More and more, the burden of financing public education is being placed on the backs of property taxpayers. Surely, they will not continue to shoulder the kinds of increases they have been getting in recent years.

    A recent Newsday editorial calling upon workers in Long Island schools to make economic sacrifices to help the overburdened property taxpayers while essentially correct in its analysis of the unfair burden proposes a preposterous solution to this very real problem.

    Were it not for their distinct anti-labor bias, the editors of Newsday might have excoriated the Bush administration and the Republican majority in Congress for passing huge tax cuts for the rich while many state governments are on the verge of insolvency. They might have rightfully bashed Governor Pataki and those members of the legislature who out of political cowardice have created a tax policy that created the illusion of tax relief, but which led to increased taxes at the local level. They might have begun a editorial crusade to once and for all end the financing of public education through the regressive property tax.

    The Newsday editors might have begun a serious discussion of what school costs could be trimmed without doing damage to the academic programs of our schools. They might have taken a close look at the bloated administrations in most Long Island districts in which bureaucratic hierarchies seriously hinder innovation, do little to train new staff and often make educational policy in response to parental pressure. They might have delicately raised the subject of why there has been a disproportionate growth in special education budgets. They might have even questioned whether these scarce dollars are being well spent, whether they are always fostering real academic growth and independence. They might have exposed the tragically crazy waste of resources that are put into bussing kids who often literally live a few blocks from their schools. The Newsday editors might have raised any of these issues. But thatís just not their style.

    They prefer to blame the problem on the working people and their unions - the very people who make the system work. Somehow it becomes the responsibility of people who earn decent but modest salaries for the very difficult and challenging work they do to subsidize the residents of the communities in which they work - residents who in many instances make several times what they earn. Thatís what Newsday sees as fair.

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