Finding a better use for school funds

Posted: Sunday, September 21, 2003

Mr. Douglas Mertz's letter of Sept. 15 about the changes to the Douglas Bridge caught my eye. I'm with him!

During the summer I have had occasion to drive by vacant schools. They're all over town. However, Juneau and state taxpayers are in the process of planning another high school so it too can sit vacant all summer, I suppose. The Empire editor commented about the $63 million bond approval, as I recall, "this says something about Juneau." Maybe so. Nevertheless, I think it's dumb. No person or private business would spend $63 million dollars for a new building when there are available, existing buildings that could be put to use. Where's the creativity, re-scheduling and intelligence here?

Go figure. $63 million is more than $2,000 dollars for every man, woman and child in Juneau, not including costs and 4.5 percent interest on the unpaid debt. It's more than sacrificing a couple of lattes a month. We can start paying by sending in all of Juneau family's Permanent Fund checks for a few years. Another way of looking at it, the cost is equal to more than six, new Lemon Creek Public Safety Buildings.

Further, if a new high school can be operated on $800,000 per year from the state (tax money), then we're sure paying too much for operation of the present high school. I'd be interested to see comparative operating and maintenance pro-formas for the new high school building. Right now existing high school language classes, and probably other classes, have been compressed - read "eliminated" - because of insufficient funding. Kids can't get classes they need right now. Teachers positions have been cut, (Empire, June 4, 2003) textbook and bus schedules have been cut; next we'll see more students per class. Would one call this rationing of education? Is it too late to get financially realistic? Change schedules, add longer days if necessary, put teachers and students in buildings now vacant 25 percent of the year and hold some classes on Saturdays.

Instead of putting $63 million into additional under-utilized school buildings spend money on teachers salaries, tutoring, on productivity and teacher bonuses for student achievement as well as fewer students per class. Why not? After graduation, high school students will long carry and use what they have learned. Not so the texture of the government school building.

R.L. Palmer


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