About that ‘rock and a hard place’
W hen the headline “Rock and a hard place” graced our front page last Friday above a story about the Keystone Central School Board’s financial predicament, we were not just talking about the school board.
Schools are a community issue.
Schools are a parental issue.
Schools are a taxpayer issue.
Schools, how they nuture and educate our kids, are integral to our economy, our quality of life and to businesses’ ability to attract working people and families here.
And so here we are in 2017 and both our public school system and our university are facing serious financial challenges.
Both are seeing declining enrollment, level or stagnant state funding, and simply outrageous pension and health-care insurance costs.
Yes, these pension and health-care costs are unsustainable.
Keystone says its pension costs alone have risen by 421 percent since 2010, including an additional $8 million next year.
Folks, most people don’t want to hear this but here goes anyway: Amid $2 million to $3 million (and maybe more) budget deficits, it’s time to reduce or cut athletics instead of cutting academics and vocational-education programs.
Remember, there also is plenty of uncertainty at the federal level with new policies on education funding.
There certainly are parallels to how public schools and universities operate … and how they must deal with skyrocketing costs that outpace tax revenue.
We suggest that, amid its long and apparently growing list of options to reduce spending so more tax increases aren’t necessary, the Keystone Central School Board should start looking at sports programs.
Lock Haven University already has, and while that approach is unwanted and not popular, just where will the cuts come from?
Is Keystone Central really considering cutting its pre-school program even before it’s had one full year of operation?
It may have to.
Is Keystone Central really considering dropping some vocational-technical education programs?
It may have to.
Can Keystone really — in good conscience –keep all of its sports programs while at the same time drop two career and technical education programs, and/or end its preschool program?
Yes, it is necessary to look at limiting athletic opportunities versus cutbacks in the classrooms, laboratories and workshops.
What a mess … a mess created by lousy decisions in Harrisburg by political leaders who are good at spending (for massive pensions) other people’s money.
A mess created by putting dollars ahead of students. A mess created by a lack of long-term vision and collaboration by all parties involved in how public education should evolve and adapt here in rural Central Pennsylvania to maximize our collective return, while at the same time balance and limit the tax burden on working families, seniors and businesses.
Student-to-teacher ratios need to be consistent districtwide. People need to do more with less, and understand that that is what most people do.
Our collective investment in education is so … so important because it speaks to how much we value our children, our communities and our nation.
So what are the alternatives?