Are North Country schools bleeding out?

Will we find a way to reinvent North Country schools?

The story in the Plattsburgh Press Republican last week said it all.  Peru’s central school district is scrambling to close a $2.9 million gap for next year’s budget — and this follows in the wake of roughly $1 million in cuts last year.

”It’s been painful,” School Board member Lisa Crosby said at the meeting, according to the P-R. “This year is going to be devastatingly painful.”

The same narrative is playing out across the North Country.  District after district is moving forward, year by year, with “incremental” cuts that are slowly gutting the quality and richness of our public schools.

Today’s Glens Falls Post Star talks about school districts making “desperate choices.”

“We are trying to stretch out ours as long as we can,” Fort Ann Superintendent Maureen VanBuren told the newspaper. “None of us want to be the first ones to figure out what to do if we become insolvent.”

It’s like that old tale about the frog.  You throw a frog into a boiling pot of water and it does its best to hop out.  But if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly turn up the heat, it’ll cook without ever noticing.

That’s what we’re seeing happen before our eyes.  Education programs are hollowing out.  Value-added programs for talented kids are being stripped away.

Support programs for children with special needs shelved or trimmed back to the point of meaninglessness.

And the thing is that everyone knows we’re still just setting off on this journey.  Schools across the region see their population of kids dwindling, their funding going down.

Unless we get a grip on this, it will be a million dollars in cuts here and million dollars in cuts there until someone turns out the lights.

Before I talk about possible solutions, let me first acknowledge the hard work that boards of education, administrators and teachers have been doing already

When the economy tanked in 2008, the state budget toppled into a meat grinder, and property tax revenues flattened.  The poor folks running our schools found themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of a global meltdown.

Then, when the 2% property tax cap sailed through the legislature, they were promised help with mandate reform that never arrived.

While everyone else was talking in abstract terms about lean government  — this means you, Governor Cuomo — local schools had to do the brutal work of actually cutting important programs.

But the hard truth is that this is the future.

No one I talk to thinks that funding for education is ever going to soar back to the growth levels we once enjoyed.  Nor are costs for things like pensions, energy, and healthcare going to shrink.

So the time has come for education leaders in our region to pivot from desperately bailing the old life boat to building a better new boat that will survive the coming storm.

Here are six concrete steps that can help save (at least some of) our public schools.

1.  Stop talking about the past.  Stop denying that fundamental change is inevitable.

I get it, we all love our schools.  We wish they could continue to look the same and do the same things going forward that they used to do.  But that’s over.

The truth is that everything changed about five years ago and we’re just waking up to the fact.  Unless we put all our options on the table and talk about how to create a new, affordable model for schools, the future will be extraordinarily painful.

2.  Each school district needs a new vision, driven by community values.

Districts should convene community dialogues to decide what exactly it is that schools can and must do.  What is the core, the heart, the essential mission?  This will guide the rest of the conversation.

When we cut programs (and we will cut programs) which should be held sacred?  When we’re forced to partner with other districts (and we will be forced to partner and share and merge) how do those alliances serve our core values?

When should we be willing to go beyond the 2% property tax cap?

It’s also important to clarify which local values match (or don’t match) the educational mandates coming from Albany.  That way, we’ll know which fights to pick.

3.  All the old turf garbage has to be thrown out.  Right now.

The Los Angeles Central School district educates more than 640,000 kids, spread over a vast geographic area, tackling levels of cultural diversity and neighborhood conflict that we can’t even begin to imagine.

In our hearts, we all know that the north Country’s balkanized, village-by-village education system is a throwback to the horse and buggy days.

So no more muttering about how different Keene is from Elizabethtown, or how awesome the geographic and cultural divides are between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.  Start partnering and sharing and merging.  It’s time.  It’s do-or-die.

Click map to view full size.

Even if you do all the things in steps 1, 2 and 3, things are going to get tough.  Especially if some of your core values require some lofty or expensive goals.  So talk honestly about that.

If your community insists on maintaining a fully autonomous district, even if you have only a few hundred (or a few dozen) kids, make it plain that that approach will almost certainly cost local taxpayers — big time.   Lay out the numbers.

5.  Open a new dialogue with teachers.

Teachers have values too, obviously, and those go beyond salary and benefits.  So put everything on the table.  What’s the new model for fair and reasonable, sustainable and respectful compensation?

Take the conversation deeper than a traditional short-term contract negotiation.  What will give teachers real job satisfaction? More job security?  Better pupil-teacher ratios? More training or support in the classroom?

Are there innovative trade-offs that can make teachers happier and more affordable at the same time?  Teachers, meanwhile, need to force their unions to think more broadly than pushing for annual pay increases and holding the line on pensions.

Again, stop denying that fundamental change is inevitable.

5.  Be sure to set positive goals as well as negative ones.

Yes, your plan going forward will include painful decisions.  Consolidation, closed buildings, fewer teachers and programs.  All those are possible, and even likely.

But once you have your values in place, find some programs that are important enough that they need to grow and get better.  Become a magnet school.  Develop some specialties.

When you have to go beyond the property tax cap to pay for the school  district’s core values, don’t be afraid of asking voters to do that.

In the end, I suspect that a lot of schools won’t engage this kind of transformational, values-driven discussion.  They’ll keep fighting to maintain something that resembles the familiar and the normal.

They’ll keep thinking year-to-year, stretching out those fund reserves as long as possible.  They’ll keep making what feel like responsible, pragmatic short-term decisions.

Meanwhile, the heart of the education experience will bleed out.

But those North Country districts that will still be strong in the year 2026 — when the current batch of kindergartners will be graduating from high school — are those that begin right now to plan for the inevitable transformation.

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118 Comments on “Are North Country schools bleeding out?”

  1. Peter Hahn says:

    “The more I think on it, the more it seems like another impossible mess with no good answers available.”

    Thats what life is like. There arent any pure and good answers, but we still have to do something. So, what are the least bad answers available?

  2. Kathy says:

    The options are …. dropping sports, dropping all extra- curricular activities like school plays – making ever pupil purchase his/her own books – or reducing administrative costs – maybe a few more options. Otherwise we just pay really really high taxes.

    Austerity.

    I know it’s a local problem. But the problem is from the top to the bottom and no one wants to give anything up. This is why I mentioned the 16.5 trillion national debt as an example because of Brian’s (MOYFC) definition.

    Austerity is a solution. Tighten the belt. Make sacrifices. Very few are willing. Including the federal government.

  3. Rancid Crabtree says:

    “So, what are the least bad answers available?”

    Ha! So, you want to lose your left leg or the right one? Index finger or the thumb? Your son or your daughter? Sophies Choice?

    How about we can the stuff that has nothing to do with education to start with? I played sports, was involved in music and the plays in school. Sorry, they have nothing to do with education. Why do we need 3 Asst Principals, 2 Principals and a Superintendent? Why do the secretaries have secretaries? Really, it’s like anything else in gov’t, it’s always top heavy. A friend worked for a state organization of 8K people more or less. Only about 40% of the people were actually employed in the actual job description. The rest were administrative people and lots and lots and lots of brass. Same thing with the schools.

    You can call it austerity or you can call it efficiency. In the end it’s either that or we just sign the whole paycheck over to the gov’t.

  4. mervel says:

    Well there is another option, one which I don’t really like, but it would force the state’s hand.

    Just become fiscally insolvent. If a school goes bankrupt and literally cannot pay it’s bills, what happens? Maybe this needs to happen for the state to get interested in our issues? I mean if you can’t make the pension payment you can’t make it, what would the state do at that point?

  5. mervel says:

    Frankly I would rather do that at least in Canton than lay off another 20% of the teachers ( after several years of laying off 10-15% of the teachers), which if you do that what is the point of having a school at all?

  6. mervel says:

    The other options as Pete is pointing out need to be put on the table. I don’t think any of us have a clear view of the true options about how to do this going forward.

    This is not a conservative or liberal debate this is about the mechanics of how to get our schools on firm footing and if it is political it is political on the small dirty level of protecting personal interests, friends and jobs. It is not philosophical. There is not viable private options in the north country, I mean yes I support our Catholic schools, but they cannot absorb a big increase, they are barely surviving themselves. So this comes down to how to move forward with the money we have now? We have to consolidate as was mentioned above and I would favor county consolidations. One district per county.

  7. mervel says:

    Can that happen on its own? I personally doubt it, but I have been wrong a lot lately (not on this board haha, but in life in general), so maybe we can rise to the occasion and break down all of these vested interests and get rid of all of these tiny districts.

  8. mervel says:

    You are asking a whole bunch of school leaders to give up there jobs.

  9. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    RC: “The only state ranked worst to do business in than NY is California.”

    Interesting that two of the biggest economic powerhouse states are ranked as worst to do business. Seems like someone is rigging the list.

  10. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    On topic, I used to ride over an hour on the school bus. On the afternoon run I was last off, but on the morning run I was last on and had the shortest ride.

    If I didn’t get my homework done on the bus ride it usually didn’t get done. I loved the bus ride. Living in an isolated area it allowed me some unstructured time to socialize with other kids and I got to see lots of the countryside. I learned all kinds of things on the bus, too, some of the most important things in life – the kind of things that many parents don’t want their kids talking about, but the same things they did and said themselves at their kids’ age. I made 5 bucks once swallowing a chaw of chewing tobacco; if I had any intestinal parasites that chewing tobacco took care of them. Maybe some kids enjoy the time away from their crackpot parents, too.

    The fuel consumed is wasteful but not as bad as having lots of kids drive themselves or their parents driving them to school. The school bus is also a much safer way to convey kids to school than having lots of extra cars on the road. We could save lots of money if riding the school bus was mandatory for kids who lived beyond walking distance from the school.

    Obviously there is some upper limit to what is reasonable for a kid to ride on a bus but in the NC an hour aint bad.

  11. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    If we consolidate all the schools how will we have sports rivalries? Everyone knows that having a football rival is the most important part of education. Sorry to all of you who just have soccer. Expensive sports are prestige sports.
    It’s like going to Harvard and being last in your class or going to SUNY Potsdam and being Valedictorian; the Harvard degree is more impressive.

  12. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Already many school districts are sharing sports programs, doing long-distance learning, and sharing administrators. As has been mentioned several times here, reducing the number of administrators and sharing services is a step that needs to be done. Stat.

  13. newt says:

    I said earlier that consolidation seems like a chimera, or illusion, unrealizable dream ( I looked it up). In fact, consolidation would probably save a few bucks in some districts (like where I taught, which had about six districts, superintendents, staffs, business offices, etc. withing a 20 mile radius), but this would have it’s costs, including a huge amount of feuding and bitterness, never mind payoffs to displaced employees). But when you look at administration as a portion of the budget, and get done replacing superintendents and their staffs with building principals and their staffs, I doubt that you would be saving more than a few percent. As for the larger districts, the savings would be even smaller.

    Unfunded mandates? Specifics, please? I suspect the biggest one is Special Education, which is not unfunded, but probably underfunded by state and Feds. Everybody cool with eliminating mandated special ed? I mean, the wealthier districts would probably keep something.

    What other unfunded mandates should we cut?

  14. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Consolidation of certain services makes sense in districts that are small and have need for less than full time positions. If we can save a few percent we should do that. But, of course there is a limit to what can be saved. Districts have been working to save for a while already so newt is probably right, the savings wont be that much.

    The premise of this whole thread is that we gotta cut budgets, and I agree to the extent that we can create efficiencies through better technologies and communication. But maybe we need to be realistic on what our values are. Do we value providing a good education more, or do we value slashing jobs and services more?

  15. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Newt, when you go to a school board budget meeting ‘unfunded mandates” are all the administration and BoE talks about. That’s what they are telling us is causing the costs to rise. It’s not the new $1500 desk the Super got or his mileage reimbursement or expense account and it’s darn sure not running the bus on over nighters to play the big game. Knowing a little more about this, I know that the mandates on records that have appeared in the last few years have placed an enormous burden on some teachers. When a teacher is spending more time filling out paper work than teaching, well there’s something wrong there.

  16. newt says:

    About eliminating sports, music, and athletics, and extra-curriculars.

    This hardy perennial is THE worst idea, ever, period.

    By the time most kids are in 10th Grade they either have have the math and writing skills they will need in life, or never will. It is a time when they should be allowed to focus on areas of interest. Math, and English, if they are interested, or the sciences, technology, building trades, or music, or art. Cut these (including art and music) choices out and watch, as i have watched, students become apathetic, cynical, rebellious, and unskilled in anything, jerks.

    I am pretty sure that more Saranac Lake graduates have gone on the successful careers, some at the national level, in art than in mathematics (not counting teaching, which supplies jobs in both fields).

    Music and athletics are usually less important to careers than art (excepting teaching of them), but they are vital in keeping non-academic kids in school. Likewise the other extra-curriculars (FFA, computer club, etc.) that run on student and adviser enthusiasm, dances, bake sales, and a few bucks from the district.

    I am not saying all sports teams are vital to students well-being, but across-the-board cutting of these, and/or music, and art, etc. is probably worst than just closing the place down and handing out vouchers.

    And I say this as a former non-athletic, un-musical, un-artistic history nerd with 30 years in private and public education.

  17. Rancid Crabtree says:

    Knuckle, in my district the kids riding the bus for more than an hour are the first ones on, last ones off. And most of those buses have to have Monitors on board. IOW- Security Guards to keep the fights down, the beatings down, the sexual assaults down. It’s a fine reflection on our society that we have to have a security guard on these buses.

  18. newt says:

    Crabtree-

    I had a little of the paperwork myself, but apparently retired before it got as awful as you describe. And I have heard about it from other teachers still in the game, (many of whom now, unlike a few years ago dread each school day and count the hours until they can join me in retirement, should they be fortunate enough not to permanently laid-off first).

    But I’m dubious that the paperwork requirement is a substantial unfunded financial mandate, since it simply takes teachers away from teaching. This degrades education of students, but I can’t see it adding much to the school budget. But maybe i am wrong.

  19. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Excess paperwork? Is that all part of No Child Left Behind? Is that the unfunded-mandate we are talking about?

  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Hey! A tip for those of you with kids riding long hours on the bus. Sometimes I stayed after school for an activity – oh, okay I was in detention – and the late bus got me home before my regular bus arrived.

  21. Peter Hahn says:

    Back to consolidation. Newt says it wont save much money, and he may be right (at least for large districts). Studies have shown that large districts dont save money by becoming even larger. But tiny ones? Why else would the tiny North Country schools have such high cost per pupil compared to Central New York schools (for example), whose major difference is that they are somewhat larger. They also have a much more diverse and expensive-to-educate student body.

    Consolidation would necessarily mean changing any of the school buildings. For example, a Tri-lakes school district could still have high schools in Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid. But they would have one administration deciding policy, buying books, doing the paper work to deal with state educational whims etc.

    The big advantage, as mentioned by Brian, is that specialty classes – AP History etc, Computer science, maybe even art and music, could be district wide using pooled students and teachers. My younger son took a computer science class in highschool (Syracuse) where he had to travel to a central district-wide school for that class. He now (after college) has a high-paying computer programming job in NYC (and a brand new baby daughter!!).

  22. Peter Hahn says:

    would not necessarily mean … (spell checker error – doesnt like contractions)

  23. Paul says:

    “dread each school day and count the hours until they can join me in retirement”

    If this is how the teachers feel about work I think this might have something to do with why a particular school might be producing “jerks” as someone commented above.

    But as I look back at these comments I think that many people are not as cynical and pessimistic as we see here.

    Our school here has great teachers yet we still have the same rules and problems as every other school in NYS. Wonder what the difference is here?

  24. newt says:

    Paul, my point was that cutting back programs that met individual interests and talents, forcing students to sit in, and teachers to teach, larger, mandated-but-unneeded-the-real-world, boring classes turned aforesaid formerly engaged students and formerly inspired and motivated teachers into what I described. If it has not happened in your school, yet, congratulations, and good luck.
    If Brian is right out the “bleeding out”, it probably will.

  25. newt says:

    Mervel, I think you may be onto something with “Just become fiscally insolvent. If a school goes bankrupt and literally cannot pay it’s bills, what happens? Maybe this needs to happen for the state to get interested in our issues? ”

    Given that there is fat to be cut and consolidation could do some good, and all that, it may be impossible to maintain quality schools in the North Country at the current level of funding.

    I would vote to increase our school taxes, but many could not, even if they wanted to.

    Maybe school boards just saying, “OK Governor Cuomo and Albany. We give up. We quit. You go ahead and take us over and do what you think you must do, cause we can’t, YOU stop the hemorrhaging, or let the schools bleed out” might be the best way to force them to come to terms with the problem. I don’t think Andy wants to be the first Executive in the country to take over the school systems of one the third of his state.

    And if the solution involved pay freezes for teachers and other staff as well as increased funding, well, OK. I did that too, in my time, and it was better than unemployment.

  26. Paul says:

    newt, like I said we have all the problems. But we have “inspired and motivated” teachers as well. I was just curious what is different in some districts?

  27. Zeke says:

    I think the unfunded mandates that are driving costs are pensions and health care for current and retired employees and with out executive order are unlikely to change.

  28. TLer says:

    Don’t know about other districts, but Tupper Lake lake seems to be giving big raises to the Superintendent while considering cutting teachers:

    Feb 6 2012 – http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/529140/Sup-t-got-17-percent-raise-with-principal-duties.html

    “Seth McGowan got a raise (17% to a total of $128,169/yr). as he took over as principal of the middle/high school this school year in addition to his role as district superintendent” … “the Enterprise quoted McGowan as saying, “I’m basically doing the principal’s job for free”…”If I had wanted to, I could just sit in the superintendent’s office and make that amount that was my contract amount,” McGowan said. “So I could just as easily, even more easily, be sitting in that office, not covering both jobs.”

    Jan 9 2013 – http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/534775/Tupper-school-board-OKs-super-s-raise–interim-principal-s-salary.html

    In the same meeting that TL school board appointed a principal to do the principal duties (therefor not needing the superintendent to do double duty), they also gave the superintendent another raise ON TOP OF THE RAISE HE GOT TO DO BOTH JOBS. “McGowan had been serving as both middle/high school principal and district superintendent for roughly a year-and-a-half. The board also voted.. to approve a contract addendum for McGowan that gives him a 2 percent salary increase in the 2014-15 school year, the final year of his current three-year contract with the district.McGowan’s current salary is $130,732. It will increase by 2 percent in each of the next two years.

    Feb 5, 2013 – http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/535309/Dire-warnings-for-Tupper-Lake-school-budget-future.html

    And now this…

  29. The Original Larry says:

    In many respects public education is a gravy train. Time to start looking at teacher and admin costs. everything should be on the table for investigation and discussion.

  30. Walker says:

    “…a Tri-lakes school district could still have high schools in Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid. But they would have one administration deciding policy, buying books…”

    I read this and I imagine all the time people would spend driving to meetings from Placid and Tupper to Saranac Lake, and all the mileage reimbursement. Granted, TLer’s presentation of what’s going on in Tupper seems like it would pay a lot of those costs pretty easily– what’s that about?

  31. Peter Hahn says:

    Walker – yes there would be more time spent driving to meetings, but most larger districts contain multiple highschools and there is time spent driving to meetings. It probably takes as long to get from one city highschool to another as it does to get from Tupper Lake to Saranac Lake. (admittedly the weather might have more effect in the mountains).

    If your choice is occasionally driving more miles to get to a meeting or canceling AP classes or art…

  32. Mervel says:

    It would be interesting to really look at what consolidation would save or not? I think random consolidation with a blind faith that it will save money is a dangerous thing.

    To me I think large scale systemic change would however make a difference. What I mean by that is instead of various schools consolidating, you step back and say no we need one district for this entire area. Ex President Kennedy of SUNY canton spoke of this several years ago, of having one district for St. Lawrence County (several people up thread spoke of this also). It would have tremendous advantages without closing most schools and would allow teacher flexibility between schools. For example now Canton has to cut 20% of it’s teachers, who then go out and compete for jobs starting all over at other school districts. If you had one district you would simply transfer teachers between schools as need rose and fell, union rules would still apply, it would be a good thing for teachers and the union. The union would be much bigger and represent many more people and teachers would have far more options. Your cost per student in the district would fall and it would be easier to garner state aid with a bigger district. Your district would have more clout and more coordination than 17 competing tiny districts.

    But I am not sure we are ready to make that sort of large scale jump in thinking?

  33. Paul says:

    Guys, let’s get with the program. All you need is a lap top to attend a meeting. I just met with 5 people in 4 different places far more spread out than the tri-lakes. Evolve or die.

  34. Peter Hahn says:

    Mervel – we obviously arent ready yet to make that jump, but it would be a good idea to get there (ready for the jump). The alternatives arent attractive.

  35. Rancid: the difference is that under my idea, local people can decide what they want to spend their own money on or whether to run a bare bones school and give money back to the taxpayers. If you don’t like what your school board is doing, you can vote them out… and that’s exactly what’s done in some places (for better and worse). There is no such accountability for state and federal mandates.

  36. Kathy: everyone wants other people to tighten their belts first. Even people who brag about their “small government” credentials freak out if corporate welfare or military spending is touched. As Jefferson said, we tend to get the kind of government we deserve.

  37. marcusaurelius says:

    Here is an informative map with information on cost/pupil in every district.
    http://www.cbcny.org/sites/default/files/InstructionalAndSupportMap.html
    Not all high cost districts are in the north country. You can see where Colton-Pierrepont is highest in St. Lawrence county and General Brown, in Jeff. county is pretty low. There are plenty of high cost districts in Westchester and Suffolk counties

  38. Peter Hahn says:

    I think Long Island and Westchester spend a lot of money per pupil because they can – teachers are very well paid there.

  39. The Original Larry says:

    No lack of money being spent in the North Country. Do we get value for all the money spent or does it just make some of us feel better? There is no correlation between money spent per student and quality of education.

  40. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – you are missing the point. The goal is to keep a high quality education for the children, but that costs less than it does now. Its not an easy problem to solve.

  41. Gary says:

    No question, mandates are the problem. When I was a school board member we were responsible for meeting the expense of 78 mandates!

  42. Peter Hahn says:

    Mandates are also the same problem for all those districts that have lower cost per pupil. The mandates are also something we have no control over.

  43. The Original Larry says:

    If the point you’re making is that quality education costs MORE now, I get it. I also get that you can’t increase spending at a rate faster than the tax base can increase without eventually running into a problem like we have now. After so many years of steadily increasing school budgets it won’t harm anyone (except those with a financial interest in the education “business”) to stop the increases and cut some of the abundant fat.

  44. Rancid Crabtree says:

    As far as mileage issues, as someone said- get with the program. These people can tele-confrence. I realize that means you won’t have an excuse to have a long lunch at the Algonquin, but it’s time people got with the program. Long distances and meetings are not the issue the were once.

    Brian not NCPR- I don’t buy it. If the State or Feds fund the major portion of the school budget, they have the control over things. And if they decide that all schools shall have X, Y and Z then the State and Feds will need to pay for it and will raise taxes to do so. I don;t see any surety of cost savings. And that’s before you get to what frills the locals want.

    Peter- we DO have control over mandates. We just aren’t joining together and protesting them as a big enough group to get the attention of the people who make these laws.

  45. newt says:

    Crabtree-”If the State or Feds fund the major portion of the school budget, they have the control over things”. But the State already has control over these courses (and the state both mandates and writes the curriculum) why should they not pay for them? If, for example, schools were not required to compel all students to take, and often re-take, and sometimes re-take, and eventually pass, the upper level Math, called Math B a few years ago, it would save the schools enormous amounts of money, and/or allow them to present Math, or other, courses to students who want to take, and would benefit from them. But since the schools are MANDATED to require them, and students likewise MANDATED to pass them for graduation, why should not the State and or Feds pay for them?

    I will add that to the best of my knowledge, according to math-colleagues I asked, the Math B course contains absolutely no practical, real-world math info. It’s all about getting you ready for the higher math courses that nobody but math specialists will ever take. But they write the curriculum, and prescribe because they think everyone should be a math geek like them. Same reason Regents ELA courses used to prescribe “The Scarlet Letter”, and such. Great if you love 19th Century Am. Lit, deadly to the 90% who don’t. Also very valuable for colleges to eliminate students who are bright but won’t jump through hoops.
    Here endeth the rant.

  46. newt says:

    Well, maybe not.
    In the old days NY had fairly tough Regents tests for college-bound students. They had to work hard and stretch themselves to do well on the tests. Used give them a little scholarship as a carrot to do well, too. The other kids, not smart or interested in a Liberal Arts college way, could take less challenging courses and tests, and maybe learn a vocational skill along the way. Then the geniuses decided, with ZERO research to justify it( except that the Koreans were doing better on multiple choice tests,) that every doggone kid had to be prepared to go to college and pass the liberal arts core courses. As a result, the Regents tests have been dumbed-down to the point that they are worthless as a measure of college-bound achievement, but still hard enough to make the other kids, and those supposed to teach them, crazy with despair.
    That is your unfunded mandates at it’s best.

  47. The Original Larry says:

    Local school districts should be mandated to provide basic, traditional education and they should pay for that. If the State or Federal government thinks something else is important, well, that’s fine, but then they should pay for it. Only the person who pays the piper should get to call the tune. It’s long past time to elect representatives (at all levels) who understand that.

  48. Paul says:

    “Local school districts should be mandated to provide basic, traditional education and they should pay for that.”

    Yes, and let the rest of the world pass by and we become a third rate country. Education is key to our long term success we need to do a lot more than provide a basic education we are not training assembly line workers anymore. We have to get with the program.

    The two most important things that the government can do is educate and defend. In that order.

  49. Mervel says:

    I agree with Paul, I can’t think of any better way to spend our public money if we care about the future.

  50. The Original Larry says:

    I’ve got bad news for you, Paul. Many of our young people are poorly educated compared to the rest of the world. Even so, I’m not advocating for bare-bones education. I’m only suggesting that financial responsibility should be apportioned correctly. Throwing money at the problems clearly hasn’t worked.

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