Letters to the Editor for May 24
Tax cap will serve to further weaken education in state
The best thing about the school property tax cap is that it undermines the integrity of our balkanized, inefficient and anachronistic education system — a system that separates kids based on illogical and superficial political divisions established in an era when horses pulled farmer’s carts home after market, and white men exercised a political and economic monopoly; a system that supports an agricultural society, not a nano-technological one, because it limits the days devoted to book learning to 180.
All these issues, and more, compound to create a very dysfunctional K-12 educational system across the country, and in fact, the problems are so dire that the Council on Foreign Relations recently concluded that they “constitute a very grave national security threat facing this country.”
This country needs to modernize our education system by eliminating antiquated structures and ensure that all students, regardless of the wealth of the family they were born into, have outstanding teachers, campuses and resources. However, across the state, school districts “have overwhelmingly complied with the spirit of the tax cap, unfortunately to the detriment of their educational mission and financial stability,” according to state Association of School Business Officials Executive Director Michael J. Borges.
The Schenectady school board is no exception, and while the superintendent and board stated that the budget overwhelmingly approved by voters “preserves the full range of instructional programs and services so critical to the success of our students,” they are being either disingenuous or dangerously naive.
First, the 2012-13 school budget will undercut pre-k education by reducing funds for supplies and eliminating a teacher. Research shows that intensive instruction for pre-k kids generates lifelong rewards for the student and society, but neglecting early education decreases the nation’s economic productivity and limits possibilities for children. The need is vast for rigorous early education.
Second, the board will destroy, for at least one year, one of the true bright spots in the district when it reorganizes the magnet schools. K-8 schools are advantageous for many reasons: continuity for students, collaboration amongst teachers, stable school culture, and a sense of community for all. By ripping away all of the kindergartens and putting them in one place, away from other kids in the same developmental stage, the people will save a few dollars. However, this is financially myopic and contrary to best educational practice.
The K-8 model will have the “K” removed and as a result, students arriving as first-graders will not have the benefit of having teachers know them; they will not know the physical space, they will not know the culture and possibilities at school. The unnecessary transition to a new environment will impede the education of many kids. First grade education, the foundation for future growth, will suffer as a result.
The ratified 2012-13 budget will transfer 155 students into the magnet schools, and this will effectively curtail Grades 1-8 into a 1-6. The introduction of masses of new students into an established school will be destabilizing. Teachers will not know the students, and students will not know the school and its characteristics. These new students will be disoriented and will undermine the educational balance of the established school community. The 7th and 8th grades, now weighted beyond their natural structural size, will effectively be a mini-middle school.
This budget will undermine so much of the stability generating and community building enabled by public schools. The much-lauded K-8 magnet schools will be dead, pre-schoolers will be stifled, and kindergartners and some middle-schoolers will not have a stable learning community. We will be worse off as a result.
The vast majority of teacher-slashing and education-depleting school budgets passed on May 15, and this summons the specter of an “educational insolvency” that state Education Commissioner John King has raised.
Our country deserves better than austerity education for our children. However, by undermining the current system, perhaps people will reflect on how artificially fractured, unjust, antiquated and weak our education system is, and strive to create a modern and dynamic structure that will enrich all children and make our country safe and vibrant.
Will state run tracks any better than NYRA?
Re the May 23 article, “State plans NYRA takeover”: Great move.
We have one corrupt entity (New York state government) replacing another corrupt entity, the New York Racing Association.
Desecrating the flag is never acceptable
On May 21, the 6 p.m. CBS6 News had a story about Libby Post, a Times Union blogger who is a member of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) Alliance.
I was very surprised to see the camera angles used during the interview of this individual: The videographer chose to show a defaced and desecrated American flag in the background.
I am not intolerant to everyone “doing their thing,” so to speak. That should end when you deface the flag of our country that so many have died to defend and to protect the freedoms of all those in America.
This act encourages the younger generation to follow in these ways and desecrate the flag in their own way to prove their point, which is an insult to all those who have served, been maimed by war, or died in defense of our country and our freedoms.
Just look into the U.S. flag code should you have any questions regarding this item.
I suppose it is just as John McLoughlin stated in his May 18 Gazette column. The rules are only effective if they are observed and enforced. Such as those who right turn on red, even though there are two signs at the intersection plainly stating “No turn on red.” The same logic applies to not yielding to an emergency vehicle or giving a pedestrian the right of way in a crosswalk (if you stop for a signal) and don’t park in the crosswalk while waiting for the traffic signal (if you are not in too much of a hurry to get where you have to go) while talking on your cell phone!
It all boils down to “hooray for me and forget about the rules and your effect on anyone else.”
Kurt von Maucher
The writer is past commander of Scotia Post 1001 of the American Legion.
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