Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Focusing on nonsense

Given all the problems this island faces regarding increasing crime, overcrowded schools, unreliable and exorbitantly priced power, horrific, stagnant wages and the absurd and otherwise disturbing fact that a discount shoe retailer in the island’s shopping district can’t stay open, to see such an outcry over some children playing dress up is a sad misdirection of sensible focus and priorities.

If you are a parent of a student, the thing you should be most concerned about is the fact that the PSS budget just got slashed probably by at least $6 million dollars. Of course, this was done politically, so you have to read between the lines to see what actually happened. The PSS budget was technically increased $1.4 million, but PSS now has to pay for power, which was $4.7 million last year before the vast majority of the massive power rate increase took effect. My own power bill has tripled, at least this month, so even conservatively, it is fair to expect PSS’ bill to come close to doubling, so figure on a bill this year somewhere in the ballpark of $8 million. That figure can be arrived at by simply subtracting an $8 million increase via a new power bill PSS didn’t pay before from the 1.2 million increase in its budget. This new power bill should leave PSS almost $7 million worse off -- conservatively. PSS already operates on an outdated shoestring budget that hardly provides, if at all, for books, athletics, custodians, substitute teachers, a fair and reasonable salary for principals and vice principals, paraprofessionals and even the commisioner, all now impacted by the ten percent cut -- among other things.

None of this even considers the fact there are more students transferring to the public schools, and probably even more to follow, as the power situation and poor economy puts the squeeze on parents’ ability to pay for private schooling. Students are crammed like sardines into classrooms with a staff full of disgruntled teachers since many just took a pay cut, and now these teachers have even more students and probably less preparation time. This is the huge problem facing PSS and the island, not a couple of kids playing dress up.

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