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|Craig Kelley for Cambridge City Council in 2015|
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. . . When we spend money on anything . . . that is money we can't spend someplace else . . .
Construction details versus teachers
On Thursday, 11 April, the School Committee's budget subcommittee finalized its $116,562,000 budget for the 2002/2003 school year. Through an ambitious program of restructuring its administration and, eventually, merging schools, the school department hopes to provide outstanding educational opportunities while at the same time shedding teachers and support staff. Of particular concern to many parents is the budget's reduction of over 26 full-time instructional aides and 6 part-time aides. While there is good reason to debate the proper way to employ classroom aides, balancing the budget on the backs of people making, as near as I can figure out, a maximum of $25,000 a year seems, as one School Committee member pointed out, somewhat problematic.
What is especially bothersome to me, though, is that we, as a city, are willing to cut teaching staff while at the same time throwing money at police officers guarding construction sites. While no one begrudges police officers a decent salary or overtime for post-9/11 security patrols or differential pay for working nights and weekend shifts, paying an officer to stand behind safety cones, safety tape, barrels and "road closed" signs watching workers pave streets or to lounge by a yard fence watching workers trim trees seems an indefensible way to spend tax dollars.
When we spend money on anything, whether it be librarians, teachers, park equipment or police construction details, that is money we can't spend someplace else. To the extent that we're paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for officers to, as one policeman put it recently, "watch a hole in the ground to make sure it doesn't move," we have that much less money for anything else.
Including teaching our kids.