Bailouts for Banks and Auto-makers and Cuts for Schools?
The following is an opinion editorial by Richard E. Specht Jr., a science teacher at Great Hollow Middle School. The opinion expressed are solely that of the author.
When I entered teaching 11 years ago I did so with wide eyed enthusiasm and great expectations. Back in 2000 times were good, the economy was humming along and the future seemed brighter than ever. The year I signed on as a teacher in the Smithtown Central School District over 140 other educators signed along with me. This trend continued for the next few years, as much “new blood” was infused into our district. Things were looking good in Smithtown and most of the rest of the state. Although there were some minor bumps along the road; a defeated budget here and there, for the most part I never really witnessed any dire situations that our system could not recover from. That is until now.
Due to fallout from the “Great Recession,” the State of New York, as well as many other States, is facing an unprecedented budget crisis like no other. Some estimates place the State’s deficit between $8 and $10 billion. The simplest of math would indicate that in order for the State to close the gap some very difficult cuts must be made. On the Governor’s list of cuts is a $1.5 billion dollar cut in State Aid to the Schools of New York State.
Read More: Smithtown Schools Budget Vote 2011
While I recognize money allocated to Education spending in New York represents a sizable portion of its budget, it is unconscionable that a cut of even a single dollar could be viewed as an appropriate response to this crisis. The education of a nation’s youth is considered the cornerstone of any great society. The education system in New York, though admittedly with some faults, is among the best in the world. How can one expect us to build a greater nation if we neglect the very foundation upon which it is built?
I realize that many people will argue that there is tremendous waste in schools and that these draconian cuts will only force schools to “do more with less”. To some this is a necessary measure to force schools to tighten their belts. In the Smithtown Central School District we have already been doing more (or at least the same) with less. The last two budgets passed in the district have both resulted in a 0% tax levy increase. We have tightened our belts around our waists already; a cut in State aid will only coil a noose around our necks that will strangle us all.
Keeping with the body analogy, when blood flow is cut off to the body’s vital areas it responds by restricting blood flow to extraneous parts such as the hands and feet and other extremities. If the condition continues, the body will sacrifice those limbs and extremities in a desperate gambit to try and keep the blood flowing to those vital areas. If that person does survive, they often emerge from the ordeal irreparably changed. If Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cuts to our education system become reality, we will effectively do the same thing to our youth. Sure, our children will survive, but forever changed.
When the big banks and automakers in this country were faced with this very problem our government somehow found the way to bail them out to the tune of eleven trillion dollars. How can anyone find it conscionable that we can bailout banks and their overpaid C.E.O’s ( who, ironically, laughed all the way to the bank) but we cannot find a way to fund our own children’s education?
There is so much other waste in our government that to get into that would take several more editorials alone. Unfortunately, there are also countless lobbies and special interest groups that keep these wasteful programs and services afloat. What greater special interest should we all have than to make sure our children are educated?
There will be a Rally for the Support of Public Education at Sachem East High School at 6 pm on Thursday, February 17th. If you have ANY interest in preserving the quality of public education on Long Island PLEASE join us and let our voices be heard. The people of Egypt and Tunisia have shown how us that real change is possible when our voices are heard in unison. Let us show we will not accept these cuts by a government that doesn’t flinch at bailing out large corporations, but cannot find the funds to support the education of its youth.
Image Courtesy http://laist.com/