Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More on school costs.

I realize that parents can and probably will disagree with me on this. And I admit I can see some of the arguments against it. But, sometimes I wonder if maybe having some "use fees" in public schools might not solve some of the budgetary problems.

There was a woman talking on the radio news I was listening to this morning (she was not from my district, she was from another district in a different state). I was kind of half-listening because I was getting dressed and writing out my grocery list (I went to the store at 7 am because the thought of going at noon, having to walk across the baking blacktop of the parking lot and deal with crowds of grumpy hot people made me too depressed). Anyway, she was talking about how her district was threatening to levy "bus fees" on families whose children rode the bus.

I admit I kind of tuned her out because she kept harping on "they put up a bond issue but the TEA PARTY killed it" and I got a little tired of her apparent assumption of "The TEA PARTY hates families and children because they don't want all taxpayers to cough up yet more money."

Anyway, the host asked her: how much is this bus fee.

"Two dollars and ten cents PER MONTH!" (I didn't hear if that was per kid or not...she had earlier given a calculation of how much it would cost her in gas to drive her multiple children to school).

And then the host asked her: how long is the school year?

"Eight months."

Okay, let me do the math on that...the school is asking for about $17 for bus fare for the school year? Even if that's per kid, I don't think that's terribly excessive. That's one family pizza night from Domino's or somewhere. That's not quite two full-price movie tickets.

I know, I know: some families will cry "poor." But I don't know. I've seen people who claimed poverty who had nicer cell phones than I did. Or who spent money on stuff I wouldn't spend on.

And, granted, if there were a bond issue to pay for bus transportation, and it were for that only, each taxpayer's bill would certainly go up less than $17. But I'm guessing that it wasn't JUST new bus fees they wanted. (The woman did say the school had cut to the bone - that teachers were let go, and a lot of administrators either retired or left. Now, I'm not sure that reducing the administrators in a school system is such a bad thing - but yes, I know, schools are having to cut a lot).

And I'm sure there could be something in place for people who really and truly could not afford that $17 per year. Or families with large numbers of children, if that fee was per child.

And I know the old argument: we all benefit from an educated populace, so we should all pay into the public schools.

But here's the thing: there's a point at which the taxpayers are stretched to the limit. Where some of them have already cut things out like pizza nights and movies. Here, we've seen our sales taxes go up and up - they first voted in a raise for a new sports center (which turned out to be less than promised) and then for a new high school. We're paying close to 10% sales tax on everything. I think I WOULD resent having more tacked on to my tax bill at this point.

And again: yes, the price of everything is going up. Yes, the price of things like public education and supporting the old people and providing health care for those who can't afford it is going up. The problem is, there's a point where the taxpayers can't bear any more of those raises. Where we've already cut back on our budgets, and maybe we look at Washington - or our own state - or even the local school district, and go "There should be some cutting there as well."

I don't know. I admit I have considerable fear for the future. Sometimes I wonder if there will be a new civil war, this time between those who see larger government and more taxes (and more entitlements) as the solution, and those who see it as the problem. I don't know. I wish it DID cost less to run a public school well. I wouldn't begrudge kids the best education we could provide! But if someone came to me and said, "We can provide a super-deluxe education for children, it will only cost you 20% more in taxes" I'd say no.

1 comment:

Kate P said...

I think you have a lot of insight here, Ricki.

Also, I noticed when I was in grad school a couple years ago that my "student fees" kept going up nearly every couple quarters. That annoyed me, because I was an online student, but then when I was student teaching and observing library budgets, I saw how much database rates were going up every year. Access to information is expensive!