Why I’m Going to Be a Jerk This Evening at the School Budget Vote

Tonight (7pm at the high school gym) is a vote for the local school budget. There’s been no small amount of debate locally, as the district has proposed cutting custodian positions in favor of contracting out those positions to an outside agency. This will save money, but might well result in local people losing their jobs. It will certainly result in local people getting paid less to do those jobs (assuming they get hired by the new agency).

I have no idea if this will pass.
But I’m all for it.
That’s right. I’m a jerk–if you listen to all the chatter online on local news sites. By voting to outsource, I’m supposedly sticking a knife in the back of all our hard working custodians.
I don’t like thinking of myself as a jerk. I certainly don’t want to stab anyone in the back. So why would I vote for something like this? Because we don’t have enough money.
That’s right. There are not enough coins in the piggy bank. And Americans–it seems to me–have gotten really good at spending money that isn’t there. Heck–the world has gotten great at it. And for me, it all comes down to wise budgeting.
I have a budget. I live according to it. Pretty strictly. Would I love to be able to take the family out to eat at nice restaurants, go out to the movies all the time, buy even more expensive gadgets, take trips to Europe more often, save more money, donate more to the poor? You bet. Why don’t I? I have a credit card. I have several, actually. I could use the credit to live pretty large for a few months–maybe even a few years. You could argue that–since I am technically capable of withdrawing a large sum of money on credit and donating it to the poor, for example–I’m a total jerk for not doing so.
Don’t those people need the money more than I do?
But I don’t have the money.

Wishing I had the money doesn’t make it any less a figment of my imagination.
True, some say. But why take this out on our poor custodians? Again–I’m not trying to “take it out” on anybody. I have friends who are custodians here in this school district. For me, it comes down to what the school district is supposed to be doing best. Is it educating students, or is it employing our local friends? Both worthy endeavors, certainly. But in a school, which should be the priority?
What will suffer if we outsource? Local workers might get laid off. They might get rehired at a lower rate. The cleaning of the schools might change. They might get worse. I don’t know for certain.
What will surfer if we don’t outsource? Most likely the following cuts:
  • elementary math interventionist teacher
  • literacy specialist (teacher)
  • behavior specialist
  • $30,000 of the technology budget
  • $84,000 more dollars back to tax payers
  • With more teachers on the block next year.
So either way, people are losing jobs. That’s unavoidable. But as a consequence of these cuts, students’ learning will be affect. That’s not an “if.”
If I have to choose between kids getting a quality education–even in a slightly dirtier building–and them getting a poorer education in an immaculate building where you can eat off the floors . . . education comes first. If I have to choose between local people getting less money, and local students losing education opportunities–in a school–again, education comes first.
Can we cut other things? Maybe. Sports is a popular punching bag. Music programs. Special needs. But our district has cut deep into other areas already.
To me, the choice is an easy one. Unfortunately, it sounds like most people disagree. I’m going tonight, planning on being in the minority. Planning on being the jerk. And it would be really easy to come out fighting for the people who would lose their jobs. I certainly would look like a much nicer person. But I think that by so doing, the education of our area will be harmed. Not broken and shattered, certainly–but harmed.
It’s just too bad people can’t see that and recognize it for what it is.
School districts don’t exist to employ people. They exist to educate students.

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