“The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle…If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”
While Mr. Douglass was referring to one of the most trying times in the history of the United States, his words ring true even today in a diversity of government challenges both national, within the state, and locally. Today’s economic struggles are testing the will of people and governments across this great nation.
This week we’ll address options that the Board of Education and public may consider to boost funding for our schools in the upcoming years. Our student population and costs of operation continues to grow while our revenues have dwindled. We desperately need sufficient funding to meet the needs of these students and the programs that serve them.
In June, the Board will formally take action, which enacts several cost-cutting measures for the 2012-13 school year. These measures range from cutting days and salaries of all employees to increasing travel costs to students for athletic events and field trips. The process has been necessary, but painful for all involved.
In forecasting the 2013-14 district budget the Board anticipates another year of cuts. They may very well be forced to implement reduction-in-force actions in order to balance the budget. The district is already running as lean as possible and these reductions will increase class sizes in virtually every school. Without the necessary teachers and support staff, our children’s classroom experiences will suffer.
What can be done to curtail the downward spiral and begin to lift the district back to the pre-2008 era of funding? A lot depends on the United States’ economic recovery progress, Utah’s economic trends, and Morgan County’s population and business growth.
Locally, existing homes and the construction of new homes does not, at the present time, generate enough revenues to support student growth. Over the past 20 years, the county has become a bedroom community to the Wasatch Front. People live in Morgan, but work and do most of their shopping elsewhere. Districts that have been able to weather the economic storm have a healthy mix of homes and businesses. Morgan needs more local businesses and compatible industry. Morgan needs to also support the businesses already established in the area.
This past legislative session, over 120 bills were introduced related to education. Some legislators are eager to micro-manage public education and earmark funds for their particular interest, but seem reluctant to fund schools at acceptable levels. When the dust settled and all of the verbal rhetoric was ended, Morgan School District only received a net increase in state revenues for the general fund of $33,500! That was not enough to cover ongoing costs, let alone meet the needs of increases in fuel, utilities, social security, etc.
The federal government must get spending under control. All governments within the State of Utah must balance their budgets; the federal government should at least attempt to reduce expenditures to match revenues. Public schools do rely on assistance from the federal government and this is not likely to change, but much of the crisis we are experiencing in this state and county is a result of decisions made at the national level.
Finally and reluctantly, the district has to take into serious consideration other taxable avenues to generate revenues. Morgan is only one of a handful of districts that do not have a vote leeway. This leeway can generate additional revenues for the general fund. Districts around us have this leeway and are using it judiciously as need requires.
Just like the nation, many local residents are struggling to make ends meet and yet some are doing quite well financially. Many parents are willing to pay for more their child’s education, but what about senior citizens who are on fixed incomes?
Whatever happens, the next year or two will be difficult ones for the district. We can keep our fingers crossed that the economy rebounds, but at the present time it seems that any recovery will be slow and painful. The upcoming national elections will have a major influence on the way the ship sales. State and local elections could also have an impact.
As Frederick Douglass so eloquently stated, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”