Wednesday, April 3, 2002/lk
I haven't attended all the school board meetings, but on the occasions that I have attended I am usually the only representative of the general public. It is rare that anyone not directly linked to the school district is in attendance. A few teachers, vice-principals, principals, administration staff, a school system secretary and attorney, sometimes a representative from the Hood River News, and the board members are usually the only ones there. If there seems to be no public input, that is because the public couldn't be bothered to attend, they just want to complain after the fact.
According to the budget and finance committee (they hold public meetings, too) 83 cents on every dollar our school system handles is pre-allocated to meet contractual wage and benefit obligations of school personnel. That leaves 17 cents on a dollar to do everything else. With over four-fifths of the budget tied to personnel and a state-wide shortage of funds, the personnel category is the only place meaningful cuts can take place. Compared to the rest of the industrialized world, our teachers, administrators and staff are among the highest paid and we are top-heavy in administration and staff, some of this due to government-mandated but nog government-funded, programs. Yet, according to the U.S. Department of Education, our nation's high school seniors are on the bottom of the list in math and science. When a premium price is paid, a superior product is expected. In a world market our administrators, staff and teachers are over-paid. Our students are under-achievers and Oregon schools are short of funds. With more than four-fifths of every dollar going to wages and benefits, what choices do the board members have? If they turn off the electricity and water, they still won't make payroll, (Other districts throughout the state are closing schools. I'm sure it would ber a cost savings to close Cascade Locks and ship the students to Hood River.) Personnel cuts appear to be the only viable action. If you have a better idea, come to a school board meeting and express it. Public input has been welcomed at every school board meeting I ever attended. They always listen, whether they agree or not.