Karl Douglass: Regrettable necessities

May 11, 2013 

I would love to have a Porsche Boxster as my everyday car. I am confident that driving in such a sleek automobile with all its top tier technology would improve the many hours I spend on the road each week.

The reality is that buying a Porsche Boxster would blow the lid off our family budget. Even if I made the leap and bought it, the cost of servicing that car would far exceed the amount I should reasonably spend on maintenance each year. Not to mention the fact that having to choose between transporting my wife or my daughter on any given trip in the two-seater would make the car highly impractical for our family's everyday needs.

So, though I would prefer to own and drive a Porsche Boxster, reality dictates that I own and drive a four-door sedan. It's more affordable, easier to maintain and better suited for transporting my family.

Columbus would love to maintain its neighborhood schools. Neighborhood schools provide stability to communities and solid educations to students. They can help stabilize property values and often serve as gathering places for neighborhood events. Neighborhood schools are great.

The reality is that neighborhood schools are blowing the lid off our school district budget. Even though we have agreed to tax ourselves several times to provide the money necessary to build new schools in new neighborhoods, the money generated by those sales taxes is restricted. It can be used to build new schools, but cannot be used to operate any school. So, as we have used SPLOST money to grow our inventory of school buildings, our budget to operate all of the schools in the district has been shrinking.

Just like the impractical Porsche Boxster I would love to drive, neighborhood schools are becoming impractical, not because they don't work or because they don't enhance our communities, but because of slowed growth in the property tax digest and increasingly severe state budget constraints. The costs of maintaining the system as is are too high.

Closing schools is never easy, but sometimes it is necessary. When it becomes necessary, the decision on how best to proceed must be approached honestly. An honest approach requires that there are no sacred cows. The analysis must examine the entire universe of schools with the primary goal being to achieve the best outcomes for students. Sometimes, the best outcomes for students create social, financial or political discomfort for the rest of us. But, if we sincerely believe that our students deserve the best education above all else, we will tolerate that discomfort.

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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