State: Don't recommend obvious, unfeasible actions

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By The Staff

We're not sure how much it amounted to, in terms of the salaries involved, paper and ink expended and so on, but if Indiana school systems are to absorb $297 million in funding cuts, a refund of the costs for developing the "Citizens Checklist" would be a good start.

We reported on the checklist in two recent stories. Under the headline, "School-savings checklist poses big challenges," we noted Jan. 11 that Gov. Mitch Daniels urged in a Dec. 28 news release that Indiana residents use a checklist to determine if local school systems are doing all they can to avoid teacher layoffs in the face of budget shortfalls. The checklist hadn't yet been approved by the state Department of Education, but that blessing came last month. Ron Etienne, superintendent for the Tell City-Troy Township School Corp., pointed out that a number of the recommendations could only be followed if changes were made in state law or through negotiations with teachers associations. Both of those processes take time, but the funding cuts were to be initiated last month.

Cannelton Schools Superintendent Al Chapman told his district's board of trustees Jan. 21 approximately $900,000 in expenses had been cut since the 2006-07 school year. Most of the suggestions in the checklist, he said, referred to programs his school system doesn't have.

Of the checklist items that are applicable to Perry County's schools, many are commonsense suggestions any good administrator will have examined closely, given that state payments to schools have been late more often than not in recent years. "Analyze where funds are spent and how they support student learning," urges one after we paraphrase it into plain English.

A recommendation to cut elective offerings includes a self-inflicted pat on the back: Corporations should utilize flexibility granted to them by the State Board of Education to find creative ways to reconfigure curriculum and define priorities."

The state assumed responsibility for a lion's share of school funding after House Enrolled Act 1001 was adopted in 2008. Trumpeted as a property-tax-relief bill, it increased the state's sales tax, but that revenue source has since taken serious hits from the recession. No one can expect state officials to predict the future, but economic troubles had begun to appear by then, and we wonder if any of our lawmakers considered seeking a financial forecast before they voted.

We trust local administrators and school boards to constantly weigh available resources against student needs. We also trust that when people are dissatisfied with something those officials do, they call school offices or appear at board meetings to make their feelings known.

We as a community have agreed that student needs go beyond core curricula, extending into the areas of elective classes and extracurricular activities, so we hope cuts aren't necessary in those areas. But as our local educators ponder how they'll deal with the funding cuts, we have some recommendations for those in Indianapolis imposing them.

Don't bother recommending the obvious. Provide resources as your duties require, then step out of the way and let the people who deal with day-to-day issues take it from there.

Our view: Editorials reflect the opinions of the newspaper.

Your view: Tell us what you think. E-mail us at editor@perrycountynews.com or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.