Monday, May 15, 2006

Extreme Makeover in Rockland?

In my native Rockland, Maine, schoolboard chair Audrey Buffington has written a letter to the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

In a one-page letter to "Extreme Makeovers: Home Edition," Buffington described the elementary school's aging facilities and air quality concerns.

She referred to the facility as a "sick school," and outlined the district's $186,000 cleanup, during which students were housed in area churches.

"Although the endotoxins are at acceptable levels now, the school board, parents, and staff are very concerned about having our precious kindergarten and first-grade students in the building," Buffington wrote. "We keep our fingers crossed daily that no one will become ill as a result of being in such an environment."

I've got mixed feelings on the goal here. On the one hand, getting a private concern to fund the school's renovation so the taxpayers won't have to is a short-term plus. On the other hand, the end result would still be a government-run school. It would be great if ABC wrote back, saying, "We'll do it, but then we'll be converting the school into a nongovernmental, nonprofit public school that won't be supported by tax dollars at all. We'll help the community raise scholarship funds so any Rockland resident will be able to afford to send their kids there (if they want to), and an endowment to help sustain the new school in the long run. Then it'll be on its own."

The real question I have about this story is what Buffington's really up to. She's not a dumb person. I don't know her personally, but have followed her educational reform attempts in the news. She must know that she'd have a better chance of balancing the school district's budget with Powerball lottery ticket winnings than getting Extreme Makeover to renovate the school.

I suspect she's just getting some free publicity for the upcoming school budget vote. Despite having cut some positions, the board is asking voters to approve a budget that will require an seven percent increase in funding from property taxes. And they already know that the voters will likely vote it down!

Dyer voted for the budget but warned that without additional cuts the public likely will reject it at the polls.

"If we take it to the voters now we will still be here in August," Dyer said, referring to the series of public budget forums held last year to adopt the budget.

If the budget is rejected at the polls, the board will then decide whether to make changes and send it back to a referendum vote at the polls or to schedule a public district budget meeting vote at which those who attend the meeting get to vote.

If you think the voters are going to turn it down, why submit it in the first place? Because you know you can pack the district meeting with people who will approve it, after it fails at the polls. That's what they're trying to do in Belfast, but might not get away with this time.



Linking to: Pirate's Cove, Committees of Correspondence