When adults play politics, our kids lose. It’s no secret, but it seems to be forgotten often. Look no further than the West Valley Central School District. The students who attend that school are afforded some great opportunities – from STEM activities in the library to earning 56 college credits while in high school. When it became financially restrictive to continue offering in-house athletics, the district merged with Ellicottville Central School.
Even now, the district is deciding if it’s worth keeping its doors open. The process of merging or annexing a district is long and tedious, it will not be wrapped up neatly with a bow within the next year. But the district has identified a problem and began the process of correcting it.
And for that, I applaud them.
But there seems to be a disconnect between the district and its residents, evidenced by another failed budget. The district felt it put out a fiscally responsible budget that continued programming with only a 0.97 percent increase. Yes, there was an increase in the tax levy, which can be hard to swallow. Maybe the district didn’t hear the voters when they shot down the 2016 budget, or maybe they saw no other option to continue giving students opportunities. Either way, the residents disapproved.
Be it a protest of sorts, or an actual feeling of contempt by the “no” voters, residents made their voices heard. But still, the students lose.
A contingency budget restricts spending to just the necessities. Salaries, legal obligations and the safety of district students are covered, but not much else. Which means, moving forward with deciding the fate of WVCS is on hold.
Results of the pre-annexation study showed the clear “winner” is Springville-Griffith Institute – which shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, given ECS showed some resistance to the process. Of course, that’s preliminary information, and a lot more work will have to be done before any permanent decision is made.
The contingency budget removes the possibility of a full annexation study in the 2018-19 year. If the cry from those in favor of closing the district doors is students are missing out on opportunities – they now miss those for another year. If it’s a high cost per student, or the decreasing enrollment, everything stays the status quo for another year.
And the students lose.
Let me be clear, I think the educational opportunities West Valley students are getting are excellent. I also think the district is doing all it can to educate its students as best it can. But I also understand the feelings of some residents who feel there are better opportunities elsewhere. There is no easy answer, but the path to finding an answer is residents and district officials listening to each other, because when adults play politics, our kids lose.