Monday, April 26, 2010

A rational system of funding education

Unfortunately I can't post these thoughts on The Post-Star's website because technical difficulties with comments appear to linger, contrary to what Managing Editor Ken Tingley's blog states but...

It's little secret that I strongly disagree with Post-Star projects' editor Will Doolittle's opinion of green groups and their alleged relationship with the state of New York. However, he tends to be pretty sensible on most other issues.

Take this column on the dysfunctional system of education funding in New York.

New York is responsible for educating its kids. The state should cover that cost the same way it pays for other state operations, through the state income tax. Education's price tag won't go down, but the tax burden will be distributed more fairly - among districts and among individuals.

He echoes what I've been saying for years.

Anything mandated by the state should be paid for in full by Albany. Anything mandated by the feds should be paid for in full by Washington. The only things that should be funded locally are things that the local school boards voluntarily choose to offer (e.g.: sports, music, extracurriculars).

Right now, there is tension in many communities between property owners and school teachers. Property owners claim that regressive school taxes are too high. Teachers claim that they are required to have strenuous (and expensive) academic qualifications for their job and deserve to be compensated accordingly.

Doolittle, like myself, recognizes that BOTH sides are right. Teachers do deserve to be fairly compensated for their required qualifications. And property owners in New York state DO face a crushing tax burden.

He deserves praise for advocating a fundamental overhaul of this irrational funding structure, for advocating an actual solution, a fair solution, rather than throwing out cheap populism.

The current system creates unnecessary tension between two of the main stakeholders in education.

Doolittle wisely takes enough of a long view to recognize this. His short-sighted colleague Tingley does not.

The Managing Editor wrote a column blasting the Glens Falls teachers' union for, in his view, undermining quality education in the city district.

Now, I'm a bit skeptical the union made the right decision for its members regarding a temporary pay freeze (or deferral, depending on whom you ask). But Tingley's harsh rhetoric demonstrates a complete lack of perspective. The teachers are not the problem.

Unlike Doolittle, Tingley fails to see the forest for the trees. Tingley and the rest of the daily's editorial board should read Doolittle's column, re-read it and keep reading it until they get it. Rather than bashing the professionals who educate the children he piously claims to care about, the managing editor (along with the editorial board) should instead be thumping their chests to demand a sane, rational method of funding education in New York state. Rather than playing to community divisions, leaders should be trying to unite people.

THAT, not cheap populism and union-bashing, is the only way to ensure the quality education Tingley claims to care about.

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