We’d all have obese piggy banks if there were a $1 charge for each time we’ve heard someone urge, “Let’s not throw money at it.”
The term is most often applied to government programs or public funds. And it can be good advice. Nevertheless, it’s probably most often used in connection with something the speaker can easily do without or does not approve.
Last month, the Roseburg School District adopted a $71.2 million budget that reflected a $6 million increase over last year’s budget. This budget was noteworthy more for what it will do than what it won’t. Instead of whittling away at positions and programs, as has been the grim task of so many schools in recent years, this budget will put jobs back on the balance sheet. These are jobs that existed before a tanking economy took down a boatload of positions to Davy Jones’ locker.
One could argue that if we’ve gotten by without these positions since the district started making cuts in the 2009-10 academic year, they aren’t really necessary.
Besides 1.5 more music teachers, a high school math teacher, a district technology staff person, a couple of middle school staffers, two new counselors and a second police officer assigned part time to campuses, the budget provides $600,000 in pay hikes. That represents a 1 percent boost for 612 positions.
The district has gotten by for several years without all of this, true enough. The question is: Do we want the professionals in charge of our children’s education to be satisfied with just getting by?
A frill is in the eye of the beholder. All the above-named jobs are connected to programs or subjects that contribute to the reason we enroll kids in public schools. They provide studies or services that equip children to go out in the world and become productive citizens who are a credit to their employers, families and communities.
None of this happens by accident. Administrators are applying funds to line items known to yield results. An appreciation for the arts — in this case, music — makes a child more well-rounded and allows a non-academic child something at which to excel. Access to a police officer can stop a public safety problem before it develops. Mastering math carries a host of skills needed in everybody’s daily life.
A 1 percent pay hike probably looks pretty darn good to parents who have been at a flat rate or unemployed for the past few years. Still, it seems a reasonable reward to those who play such a vital role in shaping the future of Douglas County youth. These youngsters need as much or more help than peers in more affluent regions.
The reinstated jobs don’t bring back the total number of employees to pre-recession levels. District administrators mulled over which ones were priorities. They also looked ahead to socking away money for maintenance projects and improvements so they won’t, it’s hoped, be caught unawares, coping with a minor or major catastrophe.
It all speaks to a prudent approach that’s more like an investment than a haphazard cash toss.