Enough with the turnips already

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By Angye Morrison

Once again, local education leaders are sitting on pins and needles, awaiting word from higher up as to whether school districts will have to endure yet another painful budgetary amputation. Legislators are meeting in emergency session this week, trying to figure out what to do – or hoping someone else has some recommendations.

School districts all over the state have faced cuts, but nowhere have those cuts been more painful than Gadsden County, where an already tight budget is forcing Superintendent Reginald James, school board members and other leaders to brace for what could be the proverbial final straw.

James was quoted in another publication this week, saying, “At this point, if we sustain another cut, I think that it’s going to have a tremendous impact. We are up against a wall.”

Amen, brother. The phrase, “You can’t get blood from a turnip” springs to mind.

As I read through headlines about budget cuts, I also read about House Speaker Ray Sansom resigned his $110,000-a-year job at Northwest Florida State College. Sansom stepped down from the position amidst controversy over taking the job, steering $25 million toward the college and a bunch of alleged secret meetings surrounding the whole thing.

He announced the resignation at the start of the Legislature’s special session this week, the same one during which our state’s leaders are wrestling with tough budget questions.

When he made the announcement, Sansom said he didn’t want the controversy surrounding his decision to detract from the purpose of the session. That commentary was greeted with a standing ovation by House members.

I agree he should have stepped down. In my opinion, it was shady to take the job to begin with. It was an unethical move. He should have waited until he was no longer in office to take a job like that, especially considering the circumstances.

But as I consider it now, in light of the financial bleeding in our education budget in this county, I have to say, I have been rethinking my position.

I say, let Sansom have the job – on one condition. He can keep it, but only if he puts his salary from that job back into the state’s education budget.

In fact, I think that all of our state leaders should take a look at their own budgets and salaries. I’m sure they’ve made cuts. But I say, step up that effort. Be “men.” Make some of the tough decisions and deep cuts you’re asking us to make.

I’d even go a step further. Elected officials are required to “get rid” of their leftover campaign funds at the end of the year. What have they done with it? I challenge them...if they haven’t done anything with the money, put it into our educational system. Help our schools. There’s no better use of that money.

Granted, there are likely restrictions as to how that money can be used or donated. But there’s always a way. And what little money is given probably wouldn’t make a dent in our statewide budget. But it could certainly help locally. Every little bit would help.

There’s also an old phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” There’s a way around making more cuts to our education budget. There has to be. And I say, start at the top, on the state level.

We’re done squeezing turnips around here.