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Like just about everybody, Bedford County Public Schools is facing a tough budgeting year. The school system is facing a shortfall of between $5 and $8 million. It would obviously take a monster tax hike to plug this hole, so the school board is going to have to make substantial cuts.
Now, who can I anger with my suggestions?
Let’s start with the Bedford County Education Association. The BCEA wants pay raises. When representatives appeared before the county school board last month, they chose to whine. Viola Henry told the school board that some of them have to take second jobs to make ends meet.
Keep in mind that teachers in Bedford County start at something like $35,000 per year. That’s the fresh out of college, no experience salary. Those mid way up the pay scale are closing in on $50,000. If these folks can’t make ends meet on those salaries, then how do they expect all the taxpayers, who don’t make anywhere near that amount, to cough up more tax money to give them raises?
Take law enforcement officers, for example. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies start at less than $30,000 per year. They don’t get three-months off in the summer, and they have to come to work in snow, sleet and freezing rain. No snow days for them. Not only that, but sometimes people try to kill them.
Social workers, a job that requires a four-year degree, start at a lot less than teachers do, something like $10,000 per year lower. They make decisions that can have tragic consequences if they are wrong.
Most of us in the private sector didn’t get a pay raise last year, and we probably won’t get one this year either. The BCEA is going to have to get a grip on reality. And, please stop whining. It’s been more than 30 years since the days when teachers started out at a poverty-level pay rate and whining about your pay just makes you look bad.
Now, for the county’s athletic supporters.
The reason we have public schools is to provide everybody with the opportunity to get an education that will enable our youth, upon graduation, to continue their education or get a decent job. We don’t fund schools so that kids can chase a ball around a field at public expense. If the school division must eliminate school staff, then athletic programs must go on the chopping block before classroom teachers do.
I realize that all athletic programs are not equal. There are a few sports that pay their own way. These should by all means continue as they are catering to a market demand. Those that don’t pay their own way should be eliminated, prior to laying off classroom teachers, if that’s what must be done to balance the budget.
Finally, let me infuriate the school guidance counselors.
Before the school board eliminates any classroom teaching positions, they need to look at support staff. School guidance counselors come to my mind because I wonder why the schools even have them. When I was in high school, we only had two guidance counselors for a 1,200 student high school, and they stuck to vocational and career counseling. Somehow, my generation didn’t turn out to be homicidal maniacs.
Even if having them all over the place serves a useful purpose, they certainly haven’t been able to prevent a host of school tragedies across the country. The guidance counselors should be in line before classroom teachers if jobs have to be eliminated.
There, this should make me plenty of enemies. I wonder if now would be a good time to get my passport renewed?