AUGUST 26, 1959
NEW YORK—I want to write a little more today about our school problem at Hyde Park because I am quite sure that other areas are having similar problems. The particular difficulties may not be the same but the causes may be similar in many cases.
In trying to find out what were the difficulties in Hyde Park I have talked to a number of people and have been amused to find how very varied were the opinions held. One member of the school board told me that he thought actually there was no one point that had caused the defeat of the school budget.
The people, he said, did not want changes, so they objected to anything new without realizing that these changes, in some cases, did not add anything to the budget, and in other cases were a real necessity in order to attract good teachers.
Now, to be specific, this gentleman felt that a rise in teachers' salaries or a change which would put a teacher receiving nearly $8,000 a year because of 10 years' service into an entirely new position, and then to bring in as a replacement teacher a young person just out of college at a low salary, meant no less good teaching and a reduction in the overall costs.
The board's decision, after a careful study, to employ an assistant superintendent in charge of business was not understood by the townspeople. Yet, this is a standard, trained-for category as a school position. The board had hoped that, through employing this person, a better and more businesslike job in maintenance and buying of supplies for the whole school district would be achieved and thus effect savings all around. This would have left the superintendent free from consideration of certain business aspects of the running of the schools in the district as a whole, which would give him more time to devote to the educational aspects of his work.
Another point brought out was the addition of health insurance for the teachers, which had been granted in many areas throughout the state, and if it was not included in the Hyde Park program there would be a further problem of attracting the best teachers to our district.
When I talked to other people I found that some felt the only question at issue was the new position of assistant superintendent. Some said they felt that the chairman of the school board was of the opinion that the voters should be told what they must have and that he did not bother to consult them. These people said they did not wish to be ordered; they wanted to be led and informed.
There were, of course, other people to whom I talked—older people—who are trying to live on small pensions and who do not want one penny added to their taxes for any reason whatsoever. This is entirely understandable, and I wish we could exempt our older citizens from these taxes which largely are for the benefit of the younger generation.
In addition to all these, I was told there also is a small group of young people, newly married with very young children, who want no additional taxes. They, of course, needed to have it explained to them that if the school system did not go forward steadily year by year there would come a time when an accumulation of neglected items would put a doubly heavy burden on them.
Whichever one of the cases mentioned may have been the real cause for the defeat of the school budget, I think it stands out now that information and public relations have been poor. To have good schools and the necessary auxiliary things for the children to take part in requires a substantial school budget, according to the needs of a community. If things do not work out satisfactorily, in the voters' estimate, they can vote for a change in the following year.