Over the past few weeks, local newspapers around the state have been loaded with stories about Kentucky school districts that are taking the maximum 4 percent increase in taxes allowed by law without having to go to a public referendum.
Sadly, at a time when nearly one in 10 in the state is out of work and the economic recovery is shaky, at best, these increases wear hard on the patience and understanding of many.
The latest to chime in is the Messenger-Inquirer’s editor from Owensboro. This paper’s editorial, “Schools show no mercy on taxes” (subscription), signals growing impatience with many school folks’ blindness to what is happening to the citizens of this state.
The editorial seems particularly irked that the tax increase is being implemented to give teachers a non-mandatory pay raise on top of step pay increases the teachers would get in any event. The editor is quick to point out that those who will have to pay those increased taxes have not seen any raise, step or otherwise, in years. Of course, that’s assuming they are even working.
The Owensboro paper is now calling for elimination of teacher tenure and implementation of a merit pay system to control costs in schools. That’s a great idea, one we’ve liked at the Bluegrass Institute for some time.
To be sure, not every local board of education is insensitive to the stress on its taxpayers, but it is clear that too many Kentucky school boards are turning a deaf ear and blind eye to the plight of their fellow citizens. That insensitivity will not increase support for schools among people who are struggling just to put food on the table, and that insensitivity may not be easily forgotten – or forgiven – by many whose suffering will increase as a consequence of tax raises in a stressed economy.