No more lip service to schools

Published 10:22 pm Monday, November 17, 2014

After all three challenged incumbents were swept out of office in City Council elections this month, those watching the local political and public policy scene will be watching education funding.

The School Board asking the city for enough to provide meaningful raises to teachers and other district staff, the city giving less, and Suffolk Public Schools finding themselves on the losing end has become something of a pattern.

But the new makeup of City Council, after the councilmen-elect are sworn in come January, may put an end to it.

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A lot of people in Suffolk hope so, at any rate.

The three councilmen voted out of office were part of a bloc that seemed antagonistic at best toward public education in Suffolk.

The message was repeated to school district officials again and again that they determine how to spend the money the city hands over and can therefore give proper raises and tighten the belt in other areas if they desire.

It was a great example of the cheapness of words, delivered from an entity with taxing authority to its dependent entity without taxing authority.

A host of other frontline local public employees on the city’s books — such as police and firefighters — have a similar case to make to that of the teachers. There were some murmurings about their stagnant salaries, but they haven’t received the publicity of their counterparts in the classrooms.

It’s safe to say that folks with an eye on Suffolk will be looking to see whether salaries of local officials and frontline workers will be brought into better balance, generally speaking.

It’s often the case that a local government hopeful will take a things-need-to-change stance when campaigning, only to succumb to a combination of reality-check and co-opting when they arrive to office.

The difference this time — and the hope for many in Suffolk — is the wholesale nature of the “clean sweep.” It won’t be one voice for change slowly eroded by the opposing voices.

Voters utterly rejected the status quo, so our new councilmen have the will of voters on their side. Hopefully incumbents will have gotten the message that they will be cast off at the next bloodletting if they resist a change of course.

Above all, the message from Nov. 4 is that Suffolk wants its city leaders to show greater respect toward the providers of public education — and much less lip service.