March 25, 2014

Editorial: Education issues need feedback

Time is running out for you to influence your school board on the important decisions being made now.

Unless there’s a burning issue in most North Country school districts, board meetings are usually sparsely attended. Most taxpayers are apt to let their elected board members speak for them.

That apathy is also sadly apparent when school districts solicit community members to serve on those voluntary boards. There’s not much interest among residents in running for the positions, and at the annual elections, low voter turnout is the norm.

The Plattsburgh City School Board is hoping to change that by encouraging the public’s input in budgetary decisions, as are other districts in the region.

In Plattsburgh’s case, the board is faced with the decision about whether to exceed its very limiting 1.6 percent tax-levy cap or possibly cut educational programs. The board wants to hear from community members and educators regarding what programs they feel should be cut or eliminated if the board were to go that route.

The lack of community input in most districts puts tremendous pressure on school-board members, who are also district residents. Usually, it’s a no-win situation; they care as deeply about the quality of the school as anyone, but they also pay taxes. And they’re not mind-readers. They need some direction from the people they represent.

The City School District has been fortunate — although they may not always describe it that way — to have some engaged citizens who are showing up for almost every meeting to listen to the board’s deliberations and provide input.

Beekmantown School District drew sizable crowds recently as it considered action on retiree health benefits and veterans tax exemptions. Board members made the wise choice to hold off for the 2014-15 school year on a final decision about veterans exemptions so they can seek more feedback from their taxpayers.

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