Raiding school funds is sorry politics

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By Larry Rowell

With apologies to Henny Youngman, "Take my politicians - please!"

To balance the state budget, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and his sidekick, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, before being bailed out with federal stimulus funds, were convinced that slots at racetracks would save not only our budget woes, but would rescue the horse racing industry, too.

The majority of Kentucky's legislators didn't agree with Beshear and Stumbo even after Stumbo sweetened the pot with an offer to use a portion of the slots money for schools, which Republican Sen. David Williams rightly branded "slots for tots."

That having crashed and burned, the dynamic duo have now seized upon the idea that raiding the contingency funds of Kentucky's school districts will solve next year's budget shortfall.

And that, dear readers, is just wrong on so many levels.

Why penalize districts like [Casey County], where Superintendent Linda Hatter and the administrative staff, along with the Board of Education, have squeezed every dollar in the budget until it squawked?

We're now going to be penalized for being fiscally responsible and putting some aside for a rainy day?

School districts are required by law to have a "rainy day fund" (contingency), which must equal at least 2 percent of the district's budget.

This money is for districts to deal with huge mechanical failures and storm damage.

As Hatter has pointed out numerous times, Liberty Elementary School has an old boiler system used to heat the building. To replace it with one of the new "green" eco-friendly, Al Gore-endorsed, geo-thermal nuclear heating systems would cost a pretty penny.

Or, what if another EF-2 tornado, God forbid, hit the county and tore the roof off one of our schools?

If our contingency funds are depleted, then school districts begin living paycheck to paycheck - and some of them are there now.

So, what's the answer?

I know it's not popular for politicians to even propose raising taxes. However, if I started living beyond my means like most Americans who spend $1.25 for every dollar made, then the only way to balance my budget is to raise more income and quit frivolous spending. When is state government going to learn this lesson? When are we going to learn this lesson?

Beshear, announcing the appointment of an education task force, recently said that he wanted "to re-energize our schools; it's time to re-galvanize the support that sparked that revolution," (the Kentucky Education Reform Act almost 20 years ago).

Au contraire.

Robbing money from Kentucky's school children is robbing them of a future that will allow them to compete in a global economy.

And that, dear readers, is just sorry politics.