What’s that giant sucking sound? The public school bureaucracy and the sycophant media

mcslogoWe’re really lucky here in Moore County.  We’ve got an award-winning newspaper, which is celebrating its success by cutting back to two print editions a week and erecting a pay wall on its web site.  

The folks who own and operate our local paper have a deep appreciation for all things state-run.  They resent charter schools and other types of educational innovation.  They tell us — with straight faces — that we need to listen to BOB ETHERIDGE.  Yes.  THIS BOB ETHERIDGE.

Our local stenographers are also standing with our county’s public school bureauracy in its efforts to bleed MORE money out of taxpayers.   Shades of Bill Clinton’s prevarications about the definition of the word ‘is’,  the editorial page actually wants to parse the definition of the word ‘surplus.’ 

Superintendent Aaron Spence is mad that the county board of commissioners would not fully fund his proposal to give EVERY kid in Moore County an iPad.   A majority of commissioners are balking at the idea itself, as well as giving even more money to a school system that has been overfunded for several years running:

When Moore County Manager Wayne Vest rolled out his proposed budget last week, he included $750,000 for the school system’s proposed digital learning initiative.

But only $375,000, or half, of that money was “new” funding. The other half would come from the school system’s operating budget.

The logic behind Vest’s recommendation: The schools have done a good job saving money the last few budgets, so they can afford to divert the extra $375,000 to buying new computers and mobile devices for students and teachers.

But Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence took time Monday to tell county officials that the school system has not been “overfunded” the last few years, and that it can’t really afford a cut to its operating budget.

“We have said and will say again that this accrual was not a result of overfunding, but a result of good leadership decision-making, unanticipated one-time federal funding that supported positions, and policies at the state level that allowed us to maximize our resources,” he said during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

I have a county government mole, who — let’s say — “begs to differ” with the version of events being put forth by the superintendent:

“The school system has more than $12 million sitting in its general fund in the bank that they could tap into for whatever they wanted.  For the past several years, they’ve been given $2 – $3 million more than what they’ve honestly needed.  Yet, they keep coming back for the same amount.  Ask for what you honestly need.

It’s a real lack of respect for the taxpayers in tough economic times.  They were told not to spend money on iPads, and they did it.  They were told not to take the Obama stimulus money to pay for these hires.  They did it. The money was going to eventually run out, and we would be stuck paying for it at the local level.  Some really bad decisions have been made, and they want the county government to bail them out — to cover for them.”

Spence’s defenders say that every extra bit of funding is needed to pay for the school system’s implementation of the common core curriculum.  (Don’t get me started on that subject.  Common core has got parents AND teachers upset.  The subject is worth a dozen future columns.  To get a briefing, check out this article and this one  AND THESE.)