Budget vote shows lack of confidence in board

Once again the Jackson Board of Education and district administrators have failed to produce a passing grade in leadership and management skills. For the fourth time in five years, voters have rejected their budget and sent a message to elected officials.

It is difficult to express confidence in leaders who constantly complain about the situations they are presented. Captains of industry manage tough economic times with progressive, decisive, often difficult decisions yet improve quality and delivery. Apparently, this concept is foreign to educators. Blaming the state for mandates and revenue shortfall is a weak excuse.

Reducing property taxes but increasing state taxes serves no one. Lobbying by district administrators for change produced nothing. While quick to tout increases in enrollment, they fail to mention the related expanded tax base.

In Jackson, less than half of the school budget is used for instruction. Only $47 million of the $100-plus million is directed to academics; $17 million of that is used for special education. The remaining $30 million includes $1 million for athletics.

In other words, approximately one quarter of every school tax dollar is used to educate the average school child in the classroom during normal school hours.

Despite this imbalance, the board adds new after-school and summer programs. While some are related to academics, one must question the efficiency of basic schooling if indeed really necessary. Others, such as "chess" and "Scrabble," should be relegated to the PTO to free resources for more important issues.

The Township Committee will now review the flawed budget with a "consultant," another semi-retired lifelong educator. Let us hope this is more than a veiled political move and they offer more than a token reduction of pre-planned budget padding.

If the committee is serious, they will hire a real world management firm to advise on the majority of the budget, administrative and non-academic monies. Explore reducing costs by outsourcing transportation, food service, maintenance and clerical functions.

Reduce head count and negotiate future expenses to grasp control over healthcare, benefits, fuel and items the administration is struggling to contain. And, they need to provide adequate and competent oversight for the already delayed $100-plus million high school, the largest school project in state history.

James L. McGowan