I read with interest this debate about parents in the Liverpool School District being upset because the school system wants to move sixth graders to the middle school and ninth graders to the high school instead of being in the annex. Those against it seem to think that the best interests of their children aren’t being looked at.

I only went to Liverpool High School for two years, but I did go to schools in other districts in other cities around the country. I’ll admit few are as large as the Liverpool school system, which has around 7,500 and is the 3rd largest district in the state. My graduating class was a little more then 850 students, and there were around 3,800 students in high school when I went.

The reality in today’s world is that it costs more to educate kids than it did in the past. Yet the money coming from Albany has decreased drastically, as has the money the federal government gives to states for education, even while touting the much-maligned and barely surviving No Child Left Behind law. That, along with Governor Cuomo getting a law passed that caps property tax increases at 2% a year (whew; thanks Governor!) doesn’t leave unlimited money for schools anymore.

Indeed, the Syracuse school system came into the year with a deficit estimated somewhere between $15 and $50 million dollars, depending on who you asked, and either figure is scary. Rochester’s schools have an even bigger deficit to overcome. Where all the money has gone is easy to figure out; where new money is coming from is another matter.

So we’re now going to be in a pattern of larger classes because there are fewer teachers and fewer schools, as even in Liverpool some schools have already been closed, and others are being looked at. I can’t remember how many schools have been closed in Syracuse, and I’m sure other districts around the county are looking at the same time.

Things aren’t like they were when I was going to school. Unemployment is much higher. There’s actually way fewer kids across the board than back then; all the baby boomers have aged. New York requires teachers to get master’s degrees, which is a joke because it’s just a way to generate more money for the state without promising teachers that it’ll help them keep their jobs. It’s one reason why teachers need to be paid better, yet that’s being fought, along with health care benefits.

Take a look at what’s going on in South Dakota. This year many school districts will be on a 4-day school week because they don’t have the money to pay for a full week of teaching. This means some parents are going to have to alter their schedules to be home with the kids or pay more for child care so they can stay at work, which will cost them more money they don’t really have. It has happened in many other places across the country already.

One thing that’s always bothered me is that when people say “I don’t want that” they almost never have another plan. It’s easy to complain and say “no”, but it’s hard to think of other ways around the issue. It’s one of the things I thought was unfair in the treatment or our former Governor Patterson, because he at least kept coming up with ideas to raise money, even if some of us didn’t like those ideas. But no one came up with anything better.

If parents really want to have a legitimate say in these matters, they need to think about the ramifications of what they think they want. Sometimes when you get exactly what you say you want, it turns out to be much worse and then you’re saying “I didn’t think that would happen”. Putting sixth graders in middle school doesn’t hurt anyone; it happens all over the country. Putting all the students in high school in the same building won’t hurt anyone if there’s a place for them; when I went there we had too many kids.

This needs to be a joint venture, but if one side just keeps fighting without offering anything, no one benefits.
 

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