Cutting waste, accountability more important than tax increase

Published 1:20 am Wednesday, March 12, 2003

By By Chris Terry
Guest Columnist
I was disheartened to see The Advance did not mention the Brewton City School System in its reporting this past week. Maybe it was because the Brewton System spends less per student than the county and their students are producing better results. Why was this not reported?
Could it be because this fact might hurt the county's chances of extorting more money from hardworking taxpayers? Because it flies in the face of The Advance's and public officials' arguments that we must spend more money to get better results.
Regardless of The Advance's position on the issue, we deserve to see the facts. The Mobile Register placed a chart in their publication where their readers could look at the results and form an educated opinion. The Advance gave their readers a staged production complete with sob stories on how the results were misleading.
(James) Crawford's article calling for public officials to earn the public's trust was dead on. If ("Buck") Powell and the School Board want our trust, they should show us the facts. Show the community how the money is spent.
How much is spent on supervisors, consultants, sports, extracurricular activities, trips (especially trips where teachers swim with manatees), computer programs (such as Navigator), and any other expenses that would be considered non-essential? Do not stop with just this year's budget. Show the taxpayers how efficiently or inefficiently it has been spent over the past 10 years. Give us the opportunity to form our own opinion based upon the facts and the merit of the school system's efficiency.
Be honest with the taxpayers and tell them if some of the programs we fund would not be necessary if parents would work with their children. Tell them the teachers are overworked dealing with the children who have not been taught simple social skills at home.
Tell them that many of this county's most academically talented children will never have one extra penny spent on their education. All while those children whose parents refuse to take responsibility will have the advantage of having taxpayers money lavished on special programs which can never take the place of loving parents.
What are the School Board's or Mr. Powell's plans for placing the emphasis back on the taxpayer's children? They need to explain how they plan to give the children whose parents are paying the bills every opportunity to reach their full potential.
Mr. Powell and the School Board have the burden of proof. If they want more money, all they have to do is show us there is not any waste. Prove the programs funded by the taxpayers are necessary and are run frugally. All the taxpayers want are the facts, not scare tactics.
The school system can prove that they are willing to stand up for the taxpapers by displaying in a public forum their expenses and plans to hold those who waste the taxpayer's money accountable.
I have submitted with this letter a copy of the graph from The Mobile Register and a copy of the four-page summary of the State's Education Trust Fund Budget. I hope they will appear in The Advance along with this letter.
The people of this state deserve to see the waste, non-essential programs, and non-educational causes that are being funding through our education budget. It is time to hold the people who are given the responsibility of managing the taxpayers money accountable. They have to be made to understand it is not their money!
It is our money and if it is being wasted, they have literally stolen from the taxpayers.
(Chris Terry is a resident of the Martinville Community. The views in this column are his own and don't necessarily reflect those of The Atmore Advance.)

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