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School budget: A wrinkle among the tough choices

A stark reality surrounds the pending budget for the Hood River County School District.

This spring, the district can truly benefit from the community’s attention and comment upon the prospect of $1.4 million in cuts from the projected $39.64 million 2013-2014 budget.

Instructional programs, staffing, and the overall effectiveness of our schools are at stake, as the administration, school board and budget committee begin to wrangle with the likelihood of tough choices.

As reported on page A1, a total of 14 teaching and support positions have been proposed for cutting, though it must be stressed no decision has been made on the actual jobs that could be eliminated, and the list of cuts is only a proposal.

Whatever happens between now and June 26, Superintendent Charlie Beck must bequeath a difficult and complex set of reductions for his successor, Dan Goldman, to assume come July 1. Goldman, the superintendent-to-be, has ample experience in everything from classroom teaching to counseling to managing multiple instructional programs, and he and the rest of the administration will have their work cut out for them.

Among the proposals is a relatively small figure of $80,000, the amount of the general fund that would be removed from the Community Education budget.

“We want Community Education to come up with a long-term plan for viability,” Beck said. The figure may be one of the smallest separate items in the menu of proposed cuts, but it would be a big blow to that program.

Director John Rust has shown flexibility and innovation in the past when faced with the need to cut back, and the program and its needs must be considered along with the rest of the prospective list.

However, the deliberation over Community Education must take into account a kind of intangible benefit the program provides. (Its shorthand nickname makes it sound like your favorite handyman.)

For “Community Ed” is not one program but hundreds of small ones, provided for and driven by members of the community and their talents. Rust and his staff provide a large roof for many rooms. Community Ed is like a pot of glue that stays malleable but connective, a set of resources tying together the school district, and groups and individuals from throughout the county. (Its budget is mostly based on fees for classes and programs.) People and organizations rely on Community Ed as an information base and shared resource for awareness of a wide variety of things that define us as a community, and it provides many opportunities to participate.

It’s a tough choice, but what Community Ed does for the community at large cannot be viewed as simply a set of dollar signs.

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