OUR VIEW: Schools are back in session
Uniforms are bought, mostly. School buses are commencing their routes once gain, picking up the most precious treasure that people have from their homes and returning them safely at the end of the school day.
The start of school is exciting in so many ways, to so many people. And this year, despite financial issues, there is a lot to cheer about. Youngsters are doing better on the whole with standardized tests, better every year, it appears, to show they are making their educations worthwhile.
But there is a sandfly in the gumbo. This year as in all years, we have had to endure the struggles that ensue at budget time, robbing Peter to pay Paul, moving one line item here and another there, not just with education but also with health care. And it is a wonder after all of this budget magic we have to work, that there are tests for children to take at all, or qualified people to proctor them.
That’s because in this state the only discretionary budget items are education and health care.
Money for law enforcement, for government operations, street lights, you name it, is dedicated and essentially carved in stone.
Education and health care, two of the most important services a society can provide to its most valuable citizens, its children, are free to feel the jagged, unforgiving budget axe, because we as a state allow it to be that way.
Every year legislators talk about changing the laws, and finding a different way to establish our fiscal priorities so that this doesn’t happen.
It would require a constitutional amendment and constitutional amendments are a lot of work.
But the legislature passes them, so that voters can make the final decision. Eight proposed constitutional amendments were passed this year and voters will decide on them in 2014.
This particular amendment, to protect education and health care from budget fiat, would require a lot more than the usual work, however. It would require a reworking of the state’s entire financial system.
The time for examining how to make that happen is now. All those children waiting on all those school buses, who have worked hard to bring up their scores, deserve no less. It is their future we are messing with by not giving education a top priority in our budgeting process. And as the budget nooses get tighter year by year, it is difficult to imagine waiting to do something for very much longer.