by Frances Edstrom
It’s sad and disheartening to read about layoffs and closures at area businesses. We empathize with families who suddenly find themselves without a job in a market where there seem to be fewer jobs available right now. We all are feeling the pinch in hard economic times, but for most of us it means smaller paychecks, paring back, working harder and hunkering down to wait out the recession. Already there are glimmers of blue sky in what have seemed to be very dark days. But for those whose jobs are gone, and who find themselves having to apply for unemployment to pay the bills and keep food on the table, it’s a harder, more frightening thing.
I seem always to be asking the naive question when it comes to government and money. “Why,” I asked my husband one day, “doesn’t the president or governor just say that every department must cut 10%? Certainly there must be that amount of waste that wouldn’t hurt anyone.” I use as an example the amount of money that can be saved just by turning out the lights when you don’t need them.
“Because,” he replied, “no government department will take that seriously, and if ordered to cut 10% will cut the most vital 10% in order to raise a public howl of protest. The politicians will immediately reinstate the cuts and raise taxes instead.”
If that seemed a little jaded to me, when I read the latest edition of the public school teachers union bulletin, I could see his point.
The page one headline, top of the fold, read, “Funding cuts to education unacceptable, Dooher [the union president] tells leaders in the Legislature.”
So basically, what Mr. Dooher is telling the public is that while he knows that the state has to cut its budget, the public school teachers union thinks other state-funded services should suffer for them, because they don’t want to. What they are saying is that there are absolutely no economies they can make and still be able to educate our children. (And please don’t pay any attention to test scores that show that there is still a meaningful sector of the school-age population that is not adequately performing on school tasks such as reading and mathematics.)
In his column on this page, Winona public school Supt. Paul Durand pledges that the administration is looking for “short-term solutions to address our immediate budget shortfalls” and the “Board of Education will be talking with stakeholders and legislators to develop contingency plans for the 2009-2010 school year.”
From my editor’s chair here on Second Street, I have to wonder, keeping Mr. Dooher’s words about the teachers union demands in mind, whether Supt. Durand is indulging in fantasy if he thinks that the majority of the current school board will buck the teachers union in searching for a way to balance its budget. It seems to me that there are many on the board beholden to the union for their very seat on the board, and it will be difficult for them to bite the hands that have fed them.
The education union can no longer legitimately claim immunity from pain, claiming that if they suffer, our children will suffer, too. If hospitals, which are in the actual “life and death” business, can find economies without neglecting their mission, so can schools and teachers.