How do you cut more than $2.5 million from a school budget and satisfy everyone? You don’t.
Valley Stream Central High School District administrators and Board of Education trustees are in just that predicament. Faced with rising mandated costs and an insufficient increase in state aid, school officials say that $2.65 million in cuts is necessary for the budget to comply with the state tax cap.
There’s no way to trim that much money — not even from a budget exceeding $100 million — without impacting students. It can’t be done by simply cutting a few thousand dollars from supplies here, a few thousand from equipment there. The district has spent the past three years making cuts that, while not painless, have at least preserved opportunities for students.
This is the first time that the cuts really seem deep enough to injure. Three sports — bowling, rifle and golf — would be eliminated. The high schools would have fewer extracurricular activities. Fifteen teaching positions would be lost, almost assuredly increasing class sizes. Several support positions would be cut. More private-school students would get MetroCards instead of yellow buses.
Having to make those decisions is an unenviable task. We can’t imagine that there is a school official anywhere who wants to cut programs or hand out pink slips.
We don’t want to see jobs lost, programs cut or safe transportation compromised. Teams like rifle, bowling and golf give students who might not be thought of as typical athletes the chance to be a part of a team and bring pride to their school. (The rifle team has captured six consecutive state championships.) Over the years, dozens of students have earned college scholarships because of their participation in these sports.
But we’re not going to implore school officials to restore any of these cuts without offering meaningful and realistic alternatives. We’re not going to offer clichés like, “Find the money somewhere else,” when we’re assured that school officials have already combed through this budget again and again.