You know what I would like? What I would really, really like? I'd like a day when I could get back to the regular business of this blog and not be compelled to write about the school system. Yeah, if we could have a day without power plays, hijinks and drama, that'd be great.
Last night at the Board of Ed meeting, HCPSS Finance Director Beverly Davis unveiled the newest response in the dispute over the school system budget: a survey. Yep, from the same people who brought you this survey which asked such loaded questions as "How well do you understand the benefits of standardized testing?" comes "Cut or Keep--you make the call!"
No, no, no. That's not how this works. For one thing, for a survey to be valid it must be crafted by people who have the professional expertise to do so. For another, not everything in the budget is equal. Salaries and benefits for teachers--which are arrived upon as the result of negotiation--are an obligation the school system is contractually bound to honor. It's extremely likely that a survey of this sort will present items without this explanation, giving the appearance of a false equivalency.
@lisaphilip: We're "informing the perceptions of the public" @SuperHCPSS said about budget survey. (What does that even mean?)
Local blogger Jason Booms, who lists his professional expertise on Twitter as opinion research and strategic communications counselor, posed this question:
@LAPhilip @HCPSS Who was the author of this instrument and what is their background in survey research?
I have another one. Why aren't we hearing the report of the Citizens Operating Budget Review Committee? Oh. That's right, the Board of Ed disbanded it. Even though the OBRC consisted of a number of people who understood budgets and understood the school system, it was deemed to be unhelpful. And remember, the Superintendent was loathe to give a full accounting to the general public because she said "you need an advanced degree" to understand it.
But now predigested budget choices will be doled out to the general public and they don't even have to look at the actual budget. Now that's thoughtful.
There's a legitimate budget work session today at the George Howard Building. That's where the nitty gritty of the real numbers should be emerging. (Or at least Councilman Greg Fox hopes so.) So there's no need for this hastily-prepared survey. The school system and county government have before them the business of communication and negotiation. While it is somewhat unusual that we are at this particular impasse, this is what the business of government looks like.
Don't take the survey. Just don't. If you have opinions about school budget priorities, send an email to the county council and copy in the school board. That's the most effective way for your voice to be heard right now. The survey is, at best, a distraction from the real business at hand.
Besides, you already filled out a survey this week, an important one. On Tuesday.