The projected $7-million-plus to come out of the budget for the 2013-14 school year is in salaries, meaning people who are teachers, school staff, in the central office and so forth plus likely dribbling out into the general community as outside contracts are pared as well. In other words, to put it less kindly than the official language, a bunch of folks making their living from the local educational field are about to lose their jobs. Additionally, since this will be done following the rules of tenure (seniority) even some of those staying are at risk of being relocated.
The terminology used by the system is that its workforce is going to be RIFed, a description rarely heard outside the government or military and meaning “reduction in force.” RIF also is the acronym of Reading Is Fundamental Inc., which is the oldest and largest nonprofit literacy organization in the U.S., and the name for the geographic Mediterranean coast of Morocco, home to the Rif Mountains, the Berbers and ancient history. That’s tossed in just to show there is no such thing as having too much education and the real concern that should arise from this action is entirely about whether any less education of local children will result.
The main instant effect of this announcement is to put a whole lot of folks “up in the air” about what tomorrow will bring, including most parents in the unincorporated area who send their children — more than 10,000 — to the public schools.
STILL, IT SHOULD come as no surprise. This action has been inevitable for some time and largely caused by state-level reductions in tax support to public education. In the case of Floyd County alone that has amounted to more than $50 million over the past decade, an average of more than $5 million a year. While lower property-tax revenues due to slightly reduced values also play a part — along with a stalling of growth bringing in too little in new revenues — that is probably a comparatively minor part of “the big picture.”
For the 2009 school year the money coming in from all sources to support the county schools was $94 million. In 2014 it will be $86 million. That pretty much tells the story.
For years now this paper has tried to alert residents that the state’s cutbacks were in large part shifting potential payment burdens for all sorts of things previously taken for granted downhill to the local level. This is one such, and more of boulder-size than the comparative pebbles in other areas.
And while the county system has been doing some minor nipping and tucking in the same time frame, it has largely tried to avoid a dramatic movement to less than before.
Nonetheless, whether this is going to be a “bad thing” is not at all certain. The county’s problem in large part is the result of having tried to “ride it out” in hope the general state economy/revenue base would quickly recover from the Great Recession. It has not, and now what probably should have been dealt with by a series of smaller actions in the past has arrived in blockbuster format.
ROME SCHOOLS, it should be kept in mind, are not affected ... this time, or at least by this. As city parents know, they’ve been slowly and steadily seeing things go bye-bye in recent years, such as kindergarten paraprofessionals, elementary school counselors, small class sizes and so on. Yet their schools continue to return positive, constantly improving results.
Let’s put that down to dedicated professionals working even harder while focusing on the fundamentals and no less should be expected from the “survivors” in the county system, similarly already doing far better than the state as a whole in public-education caliber even though they will lose a lot of co-workers. While it is hard to figure given “salary” would include benefits (medical, pension, etc.) perhaps 70-80 or more folks without degrees or newly in classrooms are going to be caught in this. Others will be bumped down to positions requiring them to take pay cuts.
What the actual impact will be on delivery of what counts — learning — has yet to be determined. It is entirely possible areas of “optional” instruction not on the state’s list of requirements such as music and art could go poof! Even football and similar could suffer as one suspects many “assistant coaches” are not yet tenured.
That last perhaps having gotten more attention from some readers than earlier comments, it might be wondered if the Floyd County Board of Education now waits to see what the reaction from the public will be. Angry comments are certain. Jeff McDaniel, the new superintendent (but not new to the system) upon whom this sad announcement fell, will be booed and hissed as though it were it his fault. The true blame belongs to procrastination in facing facts.
NOISY UPSET means little. If a mass uprising appears — pretty rare as the citizenry has a record of being fairly placid of late — the school board may feel justified in raising the property-tax rate to plug the gap. Don’t call the County Commission about this one. Unlike Rome where the schools are a legal subsidiary of the City Commission, the county school board has that power.
The devil will be in the details of what gets whacked, with central office certainly in line ($1.2 million) for a heavy hit as the county’s administration staffing is way, way more than the skeletal operation that Rome has long ago pared down to.
The real opportunity this signals is something else entirely. What is being “threatened” is a reduction in the size of the status quo and not a change to it. Perhaps, as part of this budget-cutting exercise, there should be a re-examination of what the schools do and whether they should be doing some of it at all.
This county and state desperately need to improve and raise actual educational (and graduation) levels in order to assure economic vitality and republican principles.
It is no secret that public schools — all of them, not just Floyd County — have picked up many other duties along the way. They are now not simply teaching but also parenting/guiding many of their charges, making sure they eat something daily, babysitting, providing social skills — and even making sure they’re not walking around armed or with recreational drugs on their persons. All that costs tax money, too, and a lot of it.
ALL THIS wasn’t meant to be the job of “public education” to start with. None of that has anything to do with learning reading, writing and arithmetic much less geography (like where the Rif is physically found) or civics (where the wellspring of budgetary problems and high taxes are to be detected).
So, what now regarding this pending upheaval? Well, just grin and bear it or take enough active interest to change it.