New governor disrupts Act 46 process

WHITINGHAM — As one who has sat through every minute of countless Act 46 and school board meetings in a large supervisory union, I think very highly of the communities and individuals who have been in the trenches during these months and years of hard work, sustaining accessible and effective education for the coming generations.

The boards, the public, and administration officials have shown unflagging commitment, integrity, and a real sense of community.

Even if we didn't have to deal with mandated consolidation under Act 46, this budget season is particularly hard. In at least one case, a school board received word at the last minute to cut several hundred thousand dollars, literally within hours of a final budget proposal.

Everyone has stepped up to face the challenges time and time again, to avoid drastic program and staffing cuts. They all, without exception, deserve our complete admiration and respect.

Now, a new governor has come in with a new plan. There's no way to put a nice face on this: it has demolished the wait-and-see attitude I had adopted after his first speech was so vague about education. Especially the part about “belt-tightening.”

I've spent the last two years witnessing nothing but “belt-tightening.” What new constraints does he have in mind? I don't think they are as vague as his language.

And the stakes are very high: anything that threatens funding for public education is sure to get the attention of people who see market potential, like the Wal-Mart family.

I can't help but worry that the governor will bow to the new presidential nominee for secretary of education, whose vast personal fortune has been a huge resource to the charter schools movement.

I have lived in several areas where that toxic ideology left in its wake a private system without accommodations for low-income or special needs, leaving thousands without any access while enhancing political careers and raking off public funds for corporate profits.

Every meeting on Act 46 focused on equal access and increased opportunity for all students, in a time of declining student populations and rising costs, and in the face of severe budget constraints that even threaten some schools' survival. This work has a couple of years remaining before full implementation, and the progress made so far is frankly amazing.

For the new governor to disrupt this process in the ways he proposes is indeed a slap in the face to the people who have worked so hard building an America with citizens capable of critical thinking and active citizenship.

People should be furious! I am. Aren't you?

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