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Monday, June 17, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Budget bedlam

Buffalo public schools seek to close budget gap

It is never a good sign when a school district releases a worst-case scenario for its budget problems. The Buffalo public school system is really tightening its belt this week with its proposal of laying off nearly 700 employees.
Money is hard to come by these days and school officials somehow need to close a $34 million gap in its operating budget for next year. It is a scary thought – not having enough teachers to keep class sizes small or enough bus aides to keep kids safe.
A better thought to kick around is why districts immediately go to slashing cuts rather than finding creative solutions. The situation is dire for Buffalo – if nothing is done to close the gap, the city could see the budget gap widen to $63.1 million in 2011 and then $92.5 million in 2012.
The saddest part of this plan is that it directly targets teachers. Buffalo teachers have been working without a pay raise in nearly three years and have without a contract for five.
School board officials have proposed some creative solutions to help mitigate the loss of so many personnel, such as televised lectures, school closures and even renegotiating leases on property.
Televised lectures may work in college, but not high school. Professors have enough difficulty getting students to keep up with lectures – how will 17-year-olds react when they no longer have to go to school?
They won't.
Other proposals could have merit, such as school closures, but only when done in a clear, logical way. It is possible that the public school system could use some downsizing. When a city has 46 different elementary schools, compared to 13 high schools, resources are spread out.
By consolidating schools, the administration will allow for better teacher concentration and, quite possibly, having two teachers in larger classrooms. This, in turn, will allow the state to focus funding to give the remaining schools larger budgets.
District officials will also be negotiating with the teacher's union as well. But union negotiations can turn ugly very quickly. Not to mention that teachers will be hesitant to begin paying for 20 percent of their health insurance and give back $19 million, as the plan calls for.
Many teachers and administrators are dealing with similar issues across the country. Maybe it is time for creative solutions. There has been a long debate over whether or not states should legalize and tax gambling.
Estimates have pegged illegal sports betting at $80 to $380 billion per year in the United States alone, according to a study done by Forbes Magazine in 2003. If other countries, like the United Kingdom and Australia, regulate betting, why shouldn't the United States?
If only half of the illegal bets were to be placed legally, that could mean a new $12 billion industry, according to the same Forbes study. States would no longer have to worry about money.
But sadly, it doesn't seem like any politician wants to actually find out the benefits. Instead, cutting from future generations' education seems like a better idea.



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