Monday, July 03, 2006

End the Monopoly

Do you want a slam dunk example of why public school monopolies need to end?

Here you go:

MAHOPAC — The Mahopac Board of Education last night stuck to its guns and adopted a $95.8 million contingency budget that does not fund sports or extracurricular clubs.
The board also eliminated 13.5 positions from its initial $98.6 million proposal to keep the spending increase under 4 percent, as mandated by state education law.

An estimated 500 people crowded the auditorium of Lakeview Elementary School to learn of the final plan and to hear what a community coalition formed after the budget defeat would do next.

One parent, 47-year-old Monica Wyka, said it was a sad day for the children.

"The taxes here are huge," said Wyka, a sales representative and caterer. "But you know what? If you want a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for your child, then you have to pay."
The eliminated positions include 3.8 administrators, 4.4 high school teachers, one elementary school teacher, 2.3 special-education positions, a library aide and a secretary.

Instead of cutting an academic team at the middle school — which had initially been proposed — school officials trimmed spending on repairs, supplies, equipment and other noninstructional expenditures.

Savings also resulted from eliminating adult education, cutting back on books and supplies for the library and reducing the amount for computer hardware.

Also, the district will not send students to the Walkabout alternative education program.

"The first priority is to maintain the integrity of our instructional program," Superintendent Robert Reidy said before presenting his plan. "Sports and clubs are absolutely critical for youth development. But they're not the core of the mission that we have."

A community coalition has been working on a strategy to keep clubs and sports in the schools — for a price. The coalition must raise a little more than $1 million to maintain all extracurricular activities.

At a meeting Wednesday, coalition leaders presented the school board with a preliminary plan that would call for charging varsity athletes $432 per sport, while junior varsity, freshman and middle-school athletes would pay $144.

Members of high school clubs — such as the yearbook, newspaper, drama and debate — would pay $169 to participate in each club.

Even parents of younger children may have to pay a surcharge of $25 to participate in the Mahopac Sports Association, according to the proposal.

This is as irresponsible as it is possible to get. A business that even discussed opening of such a tactic would lose so much business its head would spin. Yet these parents have no recourse, no way to punish the school for such reckless disregard of their duty to educate the children.

It is not unreasonable for citizens to decide that they do not need to pay more for education – to respond by throwing a tantrum and, essentially, gutting the school to “teach the tax payers a lesson” is simply obscene.

Now imagine a world where parents didn’t have to wait for the next election to try to throw the bums out, which isn’t even a guarantee. If parents had a voucher for their education funding the school would simply raise the cost of education – no threats of reprisals necessary – if the parents didn’t like it they would simply take their money elsewhere and students wouldn’t have to suffer the tantrums of spoiled brats.

It is time to time end the monopoly on education.

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