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Columns

February 19, 2011

Difficult decisions to be made on schools

This year is even tougher then last, the economy being what it is. It has taken a toll on all of us, and I don't see it getting better any time soon.

School budgets will be voted on in the near future, and I think it is very important that each of us show our support by voting.

As many of you are aware, the state has talked about closing small schools or consolidating them with larger schools for many years. The state has been successful in consolidating a handful of schools over the past several years, but not without a cost to the students and the taxpayers. The cost to the students is longer commutes. The students don't get the individual help that some of them need, and some get lost in the system. Another loss to taxpayers is the large cost of building the new school system. Of course, consolidation puts people out of work, which means in most circumstances they must move away from their family and friends to find another job. The greatest cost is to the community itself. It loses its identity, it loses its biggest employer, and it loses a reason to bring people and business into the community.

But the state is getting smarter because of the flak received because of some of these consolidations in the past. The state is not telling communities to close their schools, but it is cutting funding and placing a cap on spending while instituting unfunded mandates, which makes it very difficult for the schools to maintain programs and continue the quality education they have provided in the past.

If Franklin were to lose its school, it would be devastating to many of us.

I spent 15 years on the Franklin Board of Education and, unless things have changed drastically, the school carries a 15- to 20-year debt that does not end if the school is closed. That debt still must be paid.

Therefore you have this cost, along with costs incurred with a consolidation, which will be reflected in taxes. Franklin is a great school district and has very good, dedicated employees. With the computer learning center that is available to the faculty and students, there is very little that students cannot get here in Franklin that they would be able to get in a larger school district. One method of cost savings being recommended to Franklin would be for two schools to join forces and share administrative duties. Some people are not aware that the state has arbitrarily designated any school with under 1,000 students as a small school.

In closing I just want to say that all small communities that still have their school systems intact should do all they can to save those schools, for the benefit of the students and the community. This issue is very important to me because of the respect I have for the Franklin Central School and my concern for my grandchildren's future.

John Campbell is mayor of Franklin.

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