Board striking good balance

Published 6:05 pm Wednesday, February 18, 2009

While older generations might have learned their reading, writing and arithmetic just fine while sitting in uncomfortable desks in rooms without air conditioning after being just slapped across the knuckles with a ruler, our children deserve a comfortable learning environment.

Superintendent of Education Keith Moore made his belief in this fact clear at the Board of Education’s Tuesday meeting when he dispelled some rumors about steps that would be taken to save money during our economic recession.

Microwaves and small refrigerators in classrooms have already been taken out to save money on electricity, and school thermostats are being set at 68 degrees—though principals have been told to bump them up a couple of degrees if students were uncomfortable.

What Moore said will not be done—at least not anytime soon—is the removal of drink machines or the end of field trips.

The dilemma is that between 80 percent and 85 percent of the Board’s budget is made up of teacher salaries. So, trying to save money without cutting jobs is difficult.

“I’m not just trying to save electricity,” Moore said at the meeting. “I’m trying to save people’s jobs.”

We think Moore and the rest of the Board are striking a good balance between cutting costs while still allowing schools to provide a quality education.

If the national and state economies keep getting worse, though, it will be more difficult to maintain that balance. But information provided at the meeting seemed like good news: $3 million is left in the system’s reserve. That number is short of the state-mandated $4.3 million, but help could be on the way from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Chief Financial Officer Steve Yeargan estimated the county could receive $1.2 million if some of the state funds were released.

Considering the circumstances, county students seem to be in good shape even if they have to keep their jackets on in the classroom.