Roughly ten weeks ago the voters, taxpayers, and inhabitants of Lee County were overwhelmed with the specter of ‘draconian’ results and repercussions if local funding of the LCSS operations isn’t increased by $7.9M over last year’s levels. There were media ‘informational’ events; there was an orchestrated lobbying effort of elected officials; there were even ‘grassroots activism’ efforts by students at the behest of their teachers and administrators. The schools were ‘energized’ to get out support for increasing funding for the schools.
Public emotions ran high. Discussions about ‘cutting out’ or severely curtailing extracurricular and co-curricular activities inundated this community. Tutors, teachers, teaching assistants were all to be affected. Parents and students were all told to prepare for the worst, unless elected officials did the ‘right’ things and came through with proposed budget increases. In retrospect now though, there were no discussions, no ‘pep rallies’, no activism about the impact of cuts on school programs. There was no proposed curtailment of overly large ‘gifted student’ or advanced placement programs. There were no suggested reductions in the increases of technology, computer, or computer-based initiatives support. There was no proposal to curtail Lee Early College, or for that matter, any program initiative of the current administration; this, despite the end of the ‘free’ grant monies that started many of them and for which now the LCSS must support. Regardless of costs, these initiatives were assumed to be safely funded.
Come to think of it, there was no public discussion questioning any aspect of how the LCSS operates. No one publically discussed energy use or other efficiency measures in our facilities. There were no debates about the number and type of classes in the curriculum or the effectiveness of the instruction for the ones currently held. There were no comparisons to other districts that may have better test results or graduation rates. There just seems to be an assumption, that quantitatively and qualitatively, what we’re doing in the LCSS is right, and that it needs no analysis or evaluation for cost effectiveness or compliance with best practices.
Now that the budget proposal has been submitted, albeit at a lesser amount than when the public hyperbole ran highest, the lobbying continues. It continues as the county government figures out how to pay for the rest of the county governmental functions and the LCSS increased demands, amidst less revenue than last year. Recall that, in November 2010, the voting public made their wishes known that no new tax increases would be tolerated. That leaves us with just a couple of courses of action that can be taken to address this situation. One is simple: not to increase school funding levels beyond that of last year, and let the draconian cuts happen. Another is to give the schools what they want and sharply cut other county services, where each dollar of extra money demanded by the LCSS equates to a dollar reduction from other county services.
Where to start? Public safety, social services, or maybe the county simply closes the parks and ends all recreation programs? (That would probably cover the cost of supplements for Dr. Moss and his Central Office staff.) The Lee County School System is eerily silent about what the county can do without. So, how about some suggestions from the LCBOE? Or are they still recovering from jet lag? After all it is a long flight back from San Francisco….