Friday, June 20, 2008

What did the Florida primary and Wednesday's Miami-Dade School Board meeting have in common?


For those of you that don't live here, and for those of you who do, but thought NOT voting was okay until Obama looked like he was winning - the answer is THE CHILDREN!!

The thought, that you and your candidate wanted to sue to ensure the voices of those who did get up off their asses to vote for something that mattered right here in our own backyards, just sickens me. I don't even have school-aged children, but I voted against Amendment 1 because - and listen closely people - property taxes are directly tied to the damn school budget. Whew! Now that I've gotten that out of my system - to the meeting.

By law, the Miami-Dade School Board (M-DSB) has a state-mandated deadline of June 30th to present a balanced budget. In order to accomplish this, the M-DSB finally voted in the wee hours of Thursday morning, to eliminate more than 2,000 jobs. Here's the breakdown:

  • 317 central office employees
  • 75 physical education teachers
  • 30 teachers' assistants
  • 28 assistant principals
I know, I know that's only 450 jobs (as if that's okay) but hold on. It also cut the district's marketing department (no concrete figures provided, so marketing's not included in my convoluted math). Oh, I forgot! It will also make school psychologists and exceptional-student education specialists 10-month, rather than 12-month, employees.

I'm not too mad about this one. After all, the kids are only in public school for 10 months. Those employees just need to put those two free months to good use. Learn how to better manage your money. Take a real-estate course to supplement your income (Oops! Not necessarily a good idea, since our housing market is in the shitter! But hey, given the "Foreclosed Homes Roadshow," you may find a whole 'nother market to exploit, er, make up your shortfall!).

And no road trips or vacations during those two months either. Shouldn't be hard, since gas is upwards of $4.11/gallon. Just tighten those belts a little, it'll be just fine. At least you still have your jobs. Think of it this way, you can "brush yourself off" like Sen. Obama did since these cuts are expected to save the district more than $44 million. But I digress.

Prior to Wednesday's meeting, Board Superintendent Rudy Crew - (who's played his own 3 of Spades a time or two - though admittedly, it was THE trump card in the whole Ralph Arza thing. Here's some background for the uninformed, "Rudy Crew Feels Arza Resignation Was The Right Thing To Do") - had been busy.

He sent the board a memo stating he'd already carved approximately $91 million from the over-budget amount by giving 951 teaching positions and an additional 710 administrative and school-site positions the proverbial axe - only $184 million to go! No-o-o-w that math makes some sense right?

317 central office employees
75 physical education teachers
30 teachers' assistants
28 assistant principals
951 teaching positions
710 admin/school-site positions
2,111 Miami-Dade School positions lost as a result of budget cuts which were directly related to the passing of the Republican-backed Amendment 1 which was attached to the move-up of the Florida primary date. Too bad all of you, "I want the first Black president," non-voters didn't see that coming.

And are some of you working the grave-yard shift, or have to leave at 0-dark-30 to get to work on time? Well, unless you qualify for the free lunch program for low-income families - suck it up! Make your kids' lunches in between sleep and wake because they raised the cost of school lunches from $2.25 to $2.50 for middle and high school students. I know, not a lot, but over a year, at minimum wage or below - something to consider.

The first read of the budget cuts included eliminating 114 bus drivers, but the board voted to take up the transportation cuts separately. Later, they decided, 7-2, to keep all student transportation - and the bus drivers' jobs. Thank God for small favors.

In other business, the board decided to implement a plan for advertising on school property (capitalism, ain't it grand?). They also approved the department's $1.5 million budget for the 2008-2009 year which includes seven new staff members and four vehicles (go figure!).

Board member, Solomon Stinson said ''While this is humiliating to me, as an elected official with a fiduciary responsibility, I'm not going to be in violation of the law by not presenting a balanced budget." What's most important here? The board members' fiduciary responsibility, their humiliation, their fear of not looking like they know what they're doing or their responsibility to ensure our kids receive the best, most well-rounded education possible. Which is it??? Somebody please tell me!

There were other board members who were either thinking about the best interests of the kids or being political - not sure yet. Ana Rivas Logan said she could not support the item because she believed there were other cuts to be made. Board Vice Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman, also against the item, said, "This is not an item that has been a fair or just item.'' Board member, Renier Diaz de la Portilla, went where others would not. He asked the Board's two highest-paid members, the Superintendent and the Board's attorney, (I'm paraphrasing here), "What are you willing to do?" You will find their responses and a hint of what is in the offing here, "School Board Member Hopes to Oust Superintendent."

Now don't get it twisted, Diaz de la Portilla has his own skeletons, but considering the fix in which we find ourselves, isn't a little help from Mr. Crew and the Board's attorney worth asking for? The Board also voted to increase the budget for the district's Inspector General's Office to $225,000. Good thing, since Inspector General Christopher Mazzella said, ''I have some major investigations underway.'' I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: On the chopping block as well are service jobs, and services - eliminating $2.6 million of human services programs, including domestic-violence counseling, parenting-skill classes and substance-abuse treatment; closing five of the nine offices, where residents can report code violations, pay fines and buy official documents; reducing the already, questionably maintained bus service by 14% (while gas keeps going up!) just to name a few. See, "Proposed Budget Cuts 1,600 Miami-Dade Jobs"

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