By Lynda Rubin
I’m a retired School District teacher and counselor at the K-8 level and I have been a life-long advocate and activist for the education and welfare of children.
Last week after Superintendent Hite sat before this body, The Notebook reported him being asked the following: “How do we know whether you are spending money wisely? And why do you need a tax increase now if you don’t expect to run a deficit for another two years?”
Your first question makes terrific sense, because, frankly, many of us educators and taxpayers have been taking issue publicly with how the School District has been spending its money:
- Millions of dollars spent on outside law firms to appeal and appeal such losing issues as the abrogation of the teachers’ contract, for example.
- Systematically removing necessary teaching staff and support services to bare-bones levels for years, including building maintenance and cleaning staff, especially from neighborhood schools in the neediest of areas,
- Approving and renewing charter schools that the Charter School Office itself has demonstrated to be tens of millions of dollars in debt or with other fiscal irregularities, as well as many that don’t meet the same academic standards for which the District routinely closes neighborhood schools.
- Dismantling the School District’s administrative and internal support operations thus destroying the existence of an actual cohesive educational system and outsourcing them to various for-profit or bogus non-profit companies with high administrative salaries.
Now if you’re really concerned about the first question, I suggest you send staff members to all remaining SRC meetings and future School Board meetings, review their spending proposals, monitor the decisions they make and ensure that the process is open and transparent to the public as well as yourselves.
However, your second question about not asking for money until the piggy bank is empty is insulting to anyone who’s run a business, as you all do here, or even a household. It’s insulting to the children this Council governs who are already living with the deficits I noted above but especially, clean and safe buildings that don’t have lead paint chips, rat and mouse feces, mold, and unabated asbestos that can cause serious cognitive and medical deficits for growing children. To quote State Sen. Vincent Hughes: “These are health and safety hazards that no child — or adult — should face in a school.”
This is a smart and deliberative body comprised of smart, accomplished and skillful legislators. I’ve even volunteered throughout the years to help several of you get elected. So let’s stop playing games and posturing for your constituents about spending their money or raising taxes. You chose to take on this job.
Yes, the State legislature is not meeting its constitutional responsibility of adequately funding public schools. So until it does, it falls to this City Council and the Mayor to ensure that another generation of our children’s health, welfare and education are no longer neglected or unequally distributed.