Editorial: Taxpayers vs. parents, can we make a deal?

Posted

The school budget debate is fixing to be one heck of a showdown.

With two weeks to go, two groups are rallying the troops.

It's taxpayers (many of whom are school parents) vs. school parents (most of whom are taxpayers).

One group is angry — "Have you seen my tax bill?!" They pay $10,000-plus per year for very little — a generous trash service, a clean beach, and the occasional police patrol through their neighborhood.

The other group is scared — "No middle school sports?! And how will Sally get into an Ivy League school without multiple foreign languages?!" They pay those exorbitant taxes so the public schools can remain the very best — #1 again! — in Rhode Island.

With two weeks to go, tensions are extremely high. The school department released its hit list of sports teams, beloved teachers, foreign languages and programs. The critics accuse them of sensationalized propaganda.

Of course both sides are right.

The property taxes ARE too high, and they're going to get much higher.

The schools ARE the best, and thousands of residents choose to live here for that very reason, whatever the cost.

So a showdown looms, and it could get ugly.

Here's hoping it doesn't. The clock is ticking, but there is still time for compromise. The first opportunity was Wednesday night, at the public budget hearing.

The Committee on Appropriations took a hard stance, level-funded the schools and sent a stern message: "We have to control spending." We believe a majority of taxpayers feel the same, and we suspect school leaders heard them loud and clear.

Yet this is not the year to level-fund the schools, as a critically important middle school project looms. The schools have to get more than has been proposed.

So who will break the stalemate, and how will it end? It could end in a nasty fight two weeks from now. Or it could end in a compromise before the real fight ever begins.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.