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LIMBA Saving $ on Education with quality- Marty Cantor
October 28, 2011 @ 12:00 am EDT
Marty Cantor was our speaker this morning. Cantor is an economist and has apparently has given his topic, education costs, a great deal of thought.
Marty started out by pointing out that among the anti-competitive elements we are dealing with on Long Island property taxes. About 70% of those taxes are school taxes. The effect of the high costs is lost jobs. In the last 10 years Long Island lost 70,000 manufacturing jobs. We replaced all but 1700 of those jobs, but we replaced them with much lower paying jobs.
We have virtually no chance of replacing those higher earning people and that places an unsustainable burden on the people. He pointed out that while “green jobs”
Are being touted as the replacements for those manufacturing jobs. According to Cantor they are mostly coming from the ranks of the heating and air conditioning industry. While those jobs are being saved, they are adding significantly to the pool of good jobs. Bio-tech jobs are being developed, but they are being pirated away from Long Island almost as fast as they are being developed. In addition the infrastructure has been neglected making it more difficult to do business here. That backdrop set the tone for the urgency to act.
The driving force of education is not teacher’s salaries as much as the cumbersome structure of the system.
Cantor dissected the problem after declaring that there are benefits in creating a town-wide school district. There are school boards that have inexperienced and untrained people on them except for the members that worked in the system and like things just as they are. We need a town-wide elected board that is professional and independent. The rubber stamp boards are people who are highly influenced by the local superintendent.
There are as many superintendents as there are school districts on Long Island, 126. The city of New York has one. There is a professional management of our schools that will resist this consolidation, and there are those that say consolidation will not save money. That argument just does not hold up. It defies all logic. If you reduce the number of superintendents that have salaries in excess of $275,000 and you reduce that number to 11 from 126, that has to save money. There are several other levels of management that work under the superintendents that can also be eliminated.
There is equipment that is owned by every school district that can be owned by a town-wide entity, just as a battalion supplies the military subdivisions, that it serves.
The “Princeton Plan” did not impress Cantor either. That plan segregates schools into grades such as K-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12. That could mean that you have 3 children in your family going to three different schools. There’s a real sausage factory feel to that plan, Cantor doesn’t like it. I don’t know how it saves money and there are social implications that are disturbing.
According to Cantor the 2% tax cap will not solve the cost problem if the schools are not forced to make significant structural changes. The tax cap will cause class sizes to increase because the established bureaucracy will sacrifice the quality of education before they agree to a structure that could eliminate their jobs. The speaker stated that the savings would be about $300 million.
There was an idea that could save money that was voiced during the Q&A. We could settle the pension we are obligated to pay with an enormous bond issue that would be a prelude to changing the pensions going forward. There were a couple of people in the audience that have looked at that possibility and they think it has merit. The education system is not like a business that most many of us are used to. In public education we are used to increasing taxes when we run out of cash. That is no longer acceptable