Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rock the vote

Go ahead and vote today. Use this laser-guided democracy to choose between supporting the tax increase offered by an elected school board or the elected state government. Don’t worry. Your taxes are going up either way.

And while you’re at it, cast a ballot for your favorite school board member. There are a total of three choices in the city’s school district. Oddly enough, it’s the same three choices that have been on the ballot since 1999. They are in essence the same folks that have routinely driven –or at least presided over –the steady increase in school taxes every year.

But it’s not their fault really, the district assures. It’s the fault of burgeoning fuel costs and the price of benefits these days. It’s the cost of living increases, they claim; it’s the unfunded mandates. So take another 2.9 percent increase –the “lowest budget-to-budget increase” in eight years –or vote the budget down and face contingency cuts to school supplies, sports teams and the use of district facilities.

Here’s the cold, hard truth: There are no choices today at the polls. Not in Saratoga Springs at least. And across Saratoga County, the choices are starkly limited. Across 13 school districts, there are a total of 33 school board seats up for election and only 43 candidates. And nearly a third of those challenged seats are in the city of Mechanicville.

Ultimately, it’s these are the folks who will have their hands on the district’s purse strings; the same purse that levies the greatest percentage of property taxes. Yet finding candidates for the local school board is akin to pulling teeth. More often than not, voters simply rubber stamp the same incumbents into another term of rubber stamping the same budgets that reflect increases every year. After all, pulling a lever is a lot easier than actually running for a seat.

Who could blame them given the excitement and interest provided by the standard school board meeting? For anyone who hasn’t enjoyed the pleasure of attending such a conference, here’s a quick exercise to simulate the likeness: Take a bunch of morphine and start reading an appliance manual with reruns of Mr. Rogers blasting in the background.

The format at most board meetings is quite simple. First, there’s usually a student presentation of sorts; the type of affair when a bunch of third graders are paraded before the board to discuss their Odyssey of the Mind competition for 20 minutes. Then, anything that might generate community interest outside of the ‘aww…that’s sooo cute’ contingent is truncated down to a one-sentence agenda item that is summarily voted on without discussion. There is a brief moment at the end for the community to speak out, if they haven’t already been lulled to a slumber by the utter dearth of substance.

This is not to say the community can’t be active in such things as budget discussions. Often times, there are so-called budget workshops. At these meetings, residents can chime in with their disdain over the aforementioned increases, but are left with little respite, other than the usual excuses.

So instead, they sit at home and withdraw from the system and allow it to go on autopilot. Similarly, the state Legislature’s oversight of the education system is also on autopilot. Despite the cries of both homeowners and educators alike, the public education system continues to languish with inequities. The calamity that is in dire need of restructuring continues to be plagued by political dickering; discussions about charter schools and school vouchers.

Meanwhile, a fellow like this former Columbia High School student receives his diploma, but can’t read beyond the third-grade level. Now that’s money well spent. Increases would be a bit easier to stomach if New York’s education system wasn’t breeding the future Wal-Mart cashiers of America.

Still, the public continues its disinterest in the public school system or holding their legislators accountable for creating a ‘lesser of two evils’ quandary at the polls. Sure, they’ll speak out when taxes go up 10 percent or the school’s soccer team is disbanded. But until then, they’ll leave the grumbling up to others.

8 Comments:

Anonymous kyle york said...

HA-

I'm such an ardent believer in Democracy that I still send Absentee Ballots to my old High School. They always come back with koodies.

BUT...my parents WERE active when I was in public school and as always, they voted. I hope they will join you in forgiving me...but I CAN NOT and WILL NOT vote on our budget. Simply because "I don't have a horse in this race"... which is to say "I don't have a kid in the school system."

The easy and selfish vote for me it to vote it down to keep my taxes low. Heck YEAH- Let's disband that soccer team!!! But no can do.

See y'all at City Hall.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

So true, so true.

But you know, I'm making a fortune on my stock portfolio of privatized prisons. Disinterest in America's future will pay dividends when our kids are incarcerated for not having the basic skills to handle even the most rudimentary of jobs.

(If you need me, I'll be chilling in my gated community in "Dildo Meadows")

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poster 2:16 said, "See y'all at City Hall."

Does it occur to you that it doesn't much matter what "Kyle York" says on his soapbox as much as what meaningful insight you might have to offer? Try wiping that sarcastic smile from your next public delivery and that condescending (is it humor) drivel in your writing. If you are representative of the home grown (I’ve been here since 1850) compost, then its time to get some fertilizer.

The sad part of the School Budget and the Public Vote is that it is never about an improved system, just one that is self-promoting and larger. Education is important, but let's make it better not bigger.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was very surprised that Saratoga Springs didn't make the Newsweek list of top high schools. Because the money spent per student here is higher than many of those that did make the list.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As any one with kids in the system knows the "State test" has become the be all and end all of education in Saratoga Springs and throughout the state. Of course the test grade dictates funding from the state and so the administration pressures the teachers who pressure the students who get stressed out and practically crying at home because the "state test" is sooooo important. Weeks are spent teaching to this stupid test that coincidentally has no impact in the children's final class grade, college admissions or future prospects. The kids don't learn how to think for themselves or learn new material but they sure as hell can answer the questions on the state test. The only question that should be asked is what benefit is it to the kids to spend all this time and effort on the "state test"? Apparently the only answer that our school district can give us is "we don't want to loose funding"! They sound like Rev. Wright, " Not God Bless our Children!! No sir!! God Damn or children!" (give us more money)

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Bored Housewife on Prozac said...

But what about the children? The children! They are our future, the children. What about the children?

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anon 2:09 who collects disability said...

Anon 2:09 is sucking off the government tit! He collects disability and then he sells antiques on the side! Of course, he has no children. I guess God got that right. People like this guy shouldn't be able to breed.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like DK is home from his rest and found the keyboard.

9:36 AM  

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