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This week, education budgets were rejected by voters in the Region 1 and Region 14 school districts, while voters in Region 12 approved a proposed spending plan. The difference in outcomes may seem to be simple and obvious, and tied to the percentage of the increase being proposed.
But there is more to the story.
It is true that, while Region 12 faces significant issues, such as the impact of declining enrollment, a budget that is boosting overall spending by less that half of 1 percent can only be embraced. Meanwhile, in the disparate districts of Region 1 and Region 14, increases that hovered around or above the 3 percent mark provided voters with a focal point on which to pin dissent.
But that is where the story begins.
In the old days of school budget battles in the area, 3 percent would be considered a very kind hike, but such a figure has now become an emblem of deeper, and more specific, discontent. Even as voters in these districts point to the combination of spending, taxes and the economy, the issue truly on their minds is the perception that far too much money is going to very well compensated administrators and to the education bureaucracy, and not enough of the funds are devoted to actual education and improvement and enrichment for students.
There is substance to that argument, and the tendency for public education bureaucrats to feather their own nests and taxpayers to hold the line on spending may combine to leave our students increasingly shortchanged and disenfranchised.