After months of working on trying to defeat the Rocky Point School budget, yesterday the budget passed. Some may expect me to be disheartened, but I’m not. The fight continues. Historically Rocky Point budgets have passed by a wide margin--68% in 2011, 67% in 2012.This year, because the budget exceeded the tax cap, it needed to pass by 60%. The lower percentage by which it passed--62%-- is a message from this community. That message is that residents want an end to unsustainable budgets and an end to threats that programs will be cut.
The discussion the last few months has at times been contentious, and I have often been accused of being against teachers and education. I am not! I respect the profession and am certain that most do an excellent job. As I’ve stated before, quality education benefits everyone and we should all work together to provide our young people with the best we can afford. But we all--educators and noneducators alike--need to have a dialogue about what will benefit everyone concerned. And this isn’t happening. And as long as educators take the request to share the pain as an attack, it won’t happen.
I wish that school districts had all the money needed, but this isn’t the case, and we all know where most of the money goes--to salaries and benefits. My message today is that we avoid the threat of programs being cut in the future by asking that the teachers and administrators come to the table in good faith now.
The Rocky Point School Board is in the process of negotiating a new teachers’ contract. We need to tell the Board that now is the time to act for the future of the district. Telling us next year, during the budget process, that nothing can be done about contractual items is a cop-out. This is the time for them to act boldly and look for the money where most of it is spent--in the out-of-control salaries and benefits.
I’m happy that kindergarten is safe, although that it was used to scare residents into voting yes is still a shame. But, unless something is done now, unless this Board works to provide quality education in the long term, the same programs, and more, will be on the chopping block next year. Until we all are willing to look at where most of the money is spent and what threatens quality education--salaries and benefits--we will again be faced with loss of programs at the same time having to pay taxes many can no longer afford.
So whether you’re a parent with children currently in the school, a resident who no longer has children in the school, a resident who never had children in the school, or an educator who wants to be part of the solution, start attending the school board meetings and let your voices be heard.