18 January 2012

Getting Schooled on Municipal Cost Cutting

The Garfield Heights, Ohio schools made news by making austere reductions in educational programs as well as shortening the academic day due to another failed levy in November.  School Superintendent Linda Reid noted that Garfield Heights schools had not received any additional property tax money since 1992 and five school levies have failed. But in actuality, voters have been more parsimonious than recalcitrant, as voters renewed a school tax to support the six schools and 3,700 students in May 2011 but handily defeated a new tax by 300 votes. So its liberal logic that maintaining a budget is treated as a draconian cut.

In response to the budgetary shortfalls, all special subjects have been cut, such as art, music, physical education, and the library.  Moreover the school day has been shortened by 30 minutes.  Furthermore, hot lunches have been cancelled. In fact, students who qualify for school lunches were given brown bag meals of baloney sandwiches, an apple and a pickle.  Levy supporters speculated  that up to 40 staff members may be laid off.

Whenever big government bureaucrats are stymied at growing their budgets through the ballot box, the vulnerable are used as public pawns to rally the public to get their way. Administrators will tug at citizens heart strings, threatening women and children and push the most dramatic cuts instead of administrative or procedural reforms. The only thing that Garfield Heights School Administrators missed from the liberal kabuki show playbook is hurting police and firemen.  Wait--Garfield Heights Police will have to bring in extra traffic patrols and crossing guards might have their schedules changed. One of the reasons that Governor Kasich (R-OH) failed in his attempt to pass reforms in Collective Bargaining by governmental workers was unions successfully swaying voters that Policemen and Firemen would be hurt.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that  the Garfield Heights Schools kicked off a Levy meeting on January 12th in preparation for a March election.   The “brown bag” reforms are the hardball to obtain earned media and sway an apathetic public. The last levy vote only involved 5,700 voters out of a total population of 27,000 residents.

Garfield Heights is a working class inner ring suburb on Cleveland’s East side with an aging demographic. While they historically vote Democrat, this is a demographic which unconsciously embodies the Tea Party’s manta of being Taxed Enough Already.  As voters assess an additional assessment to bankroll Garfield Heights City Schools, it would be prudent to discern if school administration is top heavy or overcompensated.  Those who are skeptical about the meat clever cuts should challenge School Administrators if their reforms were the only way or just the most dramatic.  Supposedly, the schools have cut $4 million in costs prior to their education  coup de coup de grĂ¢ce, but those savings may have been ethereal.

As Americans take an agonizing reappraisal of governmental functions when it can effectively grow no more, difficult decisions will have to be made.  Schools should be all about educating not about protecting union member benefits at the cost of fleecing taxpayers or shortchanging students.

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