Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tailspin thy name is Education

Tailspin: The rapid descent of an aircraft in a steep, spiral spin. If the Providence, no make that Rhode Island, school system is an airplane then it is in a full blown tailspin. On Valentine's Day more than 300 people showed up at the Providence school board committee to express 'concern' over Supt. Johnson's proposed cuts of over 100 employees. Cuts have been coming the last few years with no real end in sight. Get your parachutes ready, folks! Where's the problem? Is it the fiscally-sound but social-not-as-conscious Governor? Is it the General Assembly who have chosen to create a panel to look at ways to change the funding structure (convening AFTER this year's legislative session ends), rather than taking the time to deal with the situation in 2004 and putting it off in 2005? The blame rests with both the General Assembly and the Governor. However, the problem goes deeper. It is an understatement to say that the system is horrible. According to many sources, a property tax system is anti-child in functionality if not explicit. Why? Generally, the cost per pupil is higher than the property tax generated from a homeowner thereby almost immediately creating a deficit situation. But housing prices have gone up so shouldn't property tax go up too? Well, yes in theory, but wages haven't gone up in any proximity to housing prices. Town officials have had to stem the cost of property tax because people can't afford higher property tax. Providence Mayor Cicciline's and others effort to drive property tax down via larger homestead exemptions illuminate that the current system is undeniably oxymoronic. If the General Assembly and the Governor can do one thing this year-they MUST restructure how schools are funded. Otherwise, every year Superintendent Johnson will have to propose budget cuts and take the heat from angry parents and teachers. The Governor will be forced to propose legislation that makes state employees pay for healthcare or be forced to make unpopular decisions in order to balance the budget. The tailspin will not end until there is a change and commitment to making a better, newer, and more effective system THIS YEAR. To do otherwise, in my opinion, would show such a lack of concern for our children, that come 2006 any and all who blocked, neglected, or obstructed such reform should be booted from office...and swiftly. In other words, Governor and esteemed members of the Assembly children, parents, and the educational system are calling you out to straighten this situation out or move aside. The time for blame is over. The time for real reform is now.


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