09/22/13 — School needs: Want good schools to attract investment? Make it a priority.

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School needs: Want good schools to attract investment? Make it a priority.

No one wants to pay more taxes -- especially if they think that the money is blowing out a window at an untimely pace.

But there is a fine line between sound fiscal policy and slash and burn -- and there are some realities when it comes to growing a community.

Just as you cannot expect a business to thrive if "cut" replaces "invest" as the key word in your business strategy, so, too, will a county crumble if that becomes the first word out of its leaders' mouths.

And often, when it is, it is the result of politics, not the best interest of a community.

Let's face it -- taxpayers like to hear that they will keep a little more of their money. And that should be the goal, but not at the expense of the future. We hire leaders to make sure that interest is protected and that we are not penny wise and pound foolish.

So, if that principle applies to counties, wouldn't you expect the same tenet would apply to schools?

While no one wants to give anyone a blank check -- we have all seen what happens when you give bureaucrats of any kind free access to money -- to pretend that Wayne County can have great schools without spending money is naive.

If we want the best teachers, we have to attract them.

If we want better programming in schools, we have to make it a priority.

And if we want our children to have facilities that might not be the Taj Mahal, but that are solid, safe and have technology they need to learn and thrive, we have to put that at the top of our list.

So we are going to have to decide to spend a little money on our schools if we mean what we say about improving them. No way around it.

Now, the naysayers -- disguised as "question-askers" -- will start the finger-pointing.

"There is so much waste in the county office," they will say. "Cut some of those salaries, and there will be more money for schools."

They do not understand the organization of the schools or what running a school requires, but they sure are ready with the solution.

Well, of course, they are right in one sense. If we just randomly cut some of the salaries at the county government level as well as some of the food and meeting bills, not to mention some of the other frills (like a television station for commissioners to pontificate on), we would have a lot more money for schools, too.

It is a matter of priorities -- and realities.

Allegedly the county commission and the school board have forged a new bond and are headed in the same direction -- better schools for Wayne County students in the most fiscally responsible manner possible.

And that is a good thing.

But we as a community have to realize that we are partners here, too. It is time to decide where we want our money spent -- and to let our leaders know that.

Willing to pay for better schools? Tell them.

Understand that maintaining a quality school district boosts a community's ability to attract and to keep jobs? Remind the slash and burn crowd of that, too, as they scratch up the foundation of what will make this community continue to grow and prosper.

And keep the school district's feet to the fire, too.

We want the best use of the money possible -- no unexamined expenses, overstaffed fiefdoms or places where money is free-flowing when it could be much more sensibly used. No waste -- none -- and priorities that reflect the goal of providing the best education possible for Wayne County students while respecting the already stressed wallets of the county taxpayers.

To find the right mix, we will need trust, common sense and new ideas, not soundbites, political aspirations, power grabs and bickering.

Let's hope we are taking those first tentative steps in that direction.

Otherwise, it will be time to make some staff cuts of our own.

Published in Editorials on September 22, 2013 12:05 AM