If I told you that a gang would extort a half billion dollars from a small community over the next ten years and that the people who lived in that community would vote to hand over the money, you would wonder if I was describing some remote place where the rule of law had been supplanted by the rule of a mafia that needed to be paid off or else.
But that’s not the case. I’m describing New Paltz, and the gang is the education nomenklatura that occupies the New Paltz school district.
The chief party official is schools superintendant Maria Rice, who the unfortunate board of education just happily signed up for another five years, increasing her salary to $188 thousand per annum. That’s more than the salaries of the mayor and trustees of the village of New Paltz and the supervisor and council members of the town of New Paltz put together, and will hopefully salve the wound inflicted on the superintendant when she wasn’t delivered the new middle school building she wanted “for the 21st Century.”
Mrs. Rice, you see, has taken on the daunting bit of social engineering that will drive the less affluent out of the community while making room for a better class of taxpayer. She, not the village or town governments and their planning boards, will oversee the final transition of New Paltz from a rural upstate community of modest means to an exurb of Neu Yalk Citeee. She will do that by offering members of the community the opportunity to tax themselves, or more likely their neighbors, into poverty and bankruptcy.
So far, they seem to be enthusiastically embracing the opportunity to drive themselves, or their neighbors, elsewhere.
The MacGuffin on the table is a “better education for the children,” inclusive of values retraining, an emphasis on socialism (under the name of “social democracy”), and the all-important new status of “citizens of the world” (American citizenship being so passe). But the prize passed under the table is bigger and better contracts for the all-powerful teachers union, which gains its status as state nomenklatura in Albany and enforces its prerogatives locally with take-it-to-the-bank bargaining power and a public relations apparatus that keeps taxpayers sedated “for the children” as the grand larceny proceeds apace.
Those who have been driven out are, of course, already gone, and can protest no more loudly than the dead. (Who wanted that sort of trash here, anyway? Why, were they not little better than the homeless curs who hang out downtown in the summer?) Those on the edge are ashamed to speak. They don’t want to disappoint “the children,” after all. And that better class of taxpayer, well, is this a deal or what? The number of buses going to Neu Yalk Citeee each day is approaching twenty! It’s fantastic. And it’s such a lovely community.
Those who do protest, like the noisy fishwife who is always writing letters to the Novathrob Cannibal-Advertiser*, must never be able to find their keys, because they seem to think that the problem has nothing to do with the exploding school budgets. To them it’s really a matter of finding a source of revenue other than the property tax, as if shifting the burden onto a nebulous “elsewhere” and some other mode of taxation is the really smart move. And in any case, by the time something like that even begins to happen the annual budget for the New Paltz schools will be well on its way to $100 million dollars a year. It’s already right up against $50 million and, under the dominatrix-like prodding of superintendant Rice, growing faster than the Wallkill in flood season. (People seem to not exactly get that a 7% increase of $50 million dollars is not the same thing as a 7% increase of $35 million, much as a 7% increase of $70 million is not going to be the same as 7% of $50 million; public education does seem to have its benefits, does it not, for someone.)
Anyway, cutting to the chase here, is there a way to stop this, reverse the course of this ruination, and get better education in the bargain? Yes, I think that there is, and I believe that this is a town that can pull it off. It would mean antagonizing the all-powerful teachers unions, who would of course instantly demand action from the state legislature to thwart such revolutionary behaviors, but I believe the people around here have the right stuff to see it through, if they wake up to the egregious larceny that they have so far allowed the school district to get away with. I’ll outline how I think it can be done in a future post, once the indignation aroused by this post has hopefully settled into the grim sobriety of reality.
* Yes, that’s my latest name for the New Paltz Times.