2002-02-23 / Editorial/Opinion

Not Money Well Spent

Not Money Well Spent

Apologists for keeping the central school board in place often point to the fact that they cost taxpayers only $15 to $20 thousand a year, a bargain in terms of what managers are paid in the "real world." What those apologists forgot to tell you, however, is that those same seven school board members cost the taxpayers upwards of $580 thousand a piece in terms of perks, totaling more than $4 million each year. At a time when teachers must dip into their own pockets to buy such necessary supplies as paper, schools cannot copy material because they can't get machines repaired and 250 students often share 15 textbooks, those expenditures are unconscionable. Where does that money go? Mostly to staff and supplies ($3.7 million) and to seven men who serve as combination chauffeurs and bodyguards ($328 thousand). At a time when teachers are earning an average of $40 thousand a year, each of the school board members has an assistant who earns $106 thousand a year and a secretary who earns $60 thousand. Each gets a luxury sedan with lights and sirens. When was the last time you heard of the necessity of a school board member to respond to an emergency that called for clearing the way of traffic? To insure that the members do respond to those non-existent emergencies, however, each is furnished with a cell phone and a Blackberry Pager (cost of both about $20 thousand a year for the seven systems). Even Steve Sanders, the chair of the Assembly's education committee sees the foolishness in those expenditures. "Those perks seem to get in the way of education," he said recently. This "let them eat cake" attitude on the part of the board seems to be counterproductive in light of the fact that many people, including some in the assembly, want to do away with the board altogether. Certainly, something must be done, and done soon, to curb the excesses of central board members. This is not the time for Blackberry pagers and chauffeured limos. In addition, this period of fiscal insecurity is not the time for District 27 to expand its offices to take over an additional two floors of the building it rents in Ozone Park. The district office once was housed on the second and third floors of the four-story building and everybody fit perfectly. Then, the district took over the first floor to house its "superintendent's academy," housing disruptive students. There might be a reasonable explanation for adding the first floor, but taking over the fourth as well for administrative offices for the superintendent and his deputies seems to be too much too soon. It is not the time to spend, unless that expenditure is directly to school programs. Schools and teachers are suffering too much for the old pork barrel to take over once again.

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