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Not enough money for schools? “Here’s your sign”

June 13, 2010

I had to chuckle the other day.  I drove by one of the local high schools and saw that it’s previous reader board out front of the campus had been replaced with a new, fancy electronic board.

It looked really nice, I have to admit.  At the same time I thought: uh, I thought we didn’t have enough money for our school district to the point where we had to cut programs.  How did we find the funding for the new sign? It’s also not the only school in this district to have had “sign upgrades” in the past year.

The bigger question is, though, where the priorities are.  I’m not against improving the look of our schools and to be sure, the new sign is nifty. It’s nice and modern, and can likely be programmed internally from the office instead of requirning manual letters to be put up physically on the board.

But, if we are being bombarded with the messages that our schools and districts are underfunded, to the point where we have to vote in new levies and bonds, or are making cuts to academic and other educational programs, you have to ask: did we really need to spend money on a new sign?

I’m sure if I talked with the administration, there are all sorts of great reasons for why the sign was needed, or how funding for the sign didn’t impact other programs. But that’s all rationalization.  The money had to come from somewhere and if you’re strapped for cash, you look at funding necessary line items, and leave the “nice to haves” for better times.

Ultimately I have to ask: how does this improve our kids’ education?  Does it make our schools safer?  Does it increase academic achievement? Will fewer students drop out, or more be able to go to college as a result?  Are we able to hire and retain qualified teaching staff?  I would think that this new sign might have cost as much as an aide’s or teacher’s salary, so what was the better use of funds?

Perhaps it isn’t even in the same category as educational funds. Maybe someone donated the sign or underwrote its cost. But we don’t know, do we, and sometimes it’s just the appearance of random expenditures like this that cause people to wonder just how the money in education is spent.

I’d love to hear what others think. Perhaps I’m just too picky and question where our tax dollars go to support education. To me, this is another “sign” that educational dollars are not going where they should be — to the kids whose futures depend on what goes on in classrooms every day.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 13, 2010 8:42 am

    Most school systems have certain funds that can be used for certain things. If a teacher is cut and a new sign is put up, it could be because funds were low in the fund earmarked for salaries. At the same time, the fund for buildings and grounds (or wahtever fund was used for the new sign) may have had ample funds. A school budget is set up very differently from our own budgets and many times the general public can’t figure out what the schools are doing. Check with your school. Ask about the different funds that are available and what each fund can be used for. Then you may realize why you got a new sign when other seemingly needed areas were not funded.

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