No more ‘business as usual’

Published 9:13 pm Friday, December 11, 2009

On Friday, we encouraged education leaders to think “outside the box” when focusing on ways to address declining tax revenues. It was a challenge that was centered on the call to do something different than the normal course of action, such as cutting staff, reducing programs and eliminating extracurricular activity expenses.

By no means was this a call for additional funding to be thrown at the problem.

The problem comes from an antiquated way of thinking. It comes from a sense of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and a lack of the will needed to shake up the status quo.

Governmental agencies are inefficient by nature. There are levels of bureaucracy that chip away at any good system, often preventing creative solutions to consistent problems.

In many cases, governmental agencies create their own inefficiencies, protecting the funding they receive. It is an inherent problem – not only in public education, but in every level of government and every type of governmental service.

In fact, today’s public resistance to any further taxes or fees comes from the public’s perception of wasteful spending. Taxpayers look at lofty administrative salaries, perks and bonuses as unneeded.

That perception and that aversion to any additional taxes will continue until leaders of public agencies — including public education — can prove their operations are run efficiently and that there is a positive return on the taxpayers’ investment.

As the Suffolk Public Schools goes through its budget process, there will no doubt be an irresistible urge to make the same cuts and adjust the same programs as they have done in recent years. Those cuts may be needed. But everything should be looked at.

Thermostat settings, department vehicles, office leases, supply orders, administrative salaries, and more should be looked at, long before the first teacher position is eliminated or extracurricular activity eliminated.

Our children deserve our best effort and deserve the best possible education we can possibly provide.