There's a great deadpan comic line in the animated movie "Anastasia," spoken by the little bat Bartok. The evil Rasputin is plotting against the movie's title character, and Bartok says, "This can only end in tears."
We often use this line when my kids are playing too rough, when it looks like they're one elbow away from a brawl. And these are girls, remember.
These girls, like their parents, are products of the Columbia County school system. So in addition to my watching-out-for-the-public role, I have on the hats of dad and taxpayer when I see what our school system does. Oh, and a husband hat, too, because my wife is a principal.
So when more than 50 school systems in Georgia filed a lawsuit against the state Tuesday, saying that funding formulas aren't equitable and that they ought to get more money, I immediately thought: This can only end in tears.
Ultimately, when citizens sue their own government, the only certain outcome is that it will cost us all. It's like the now-dismissed stormwater utility lawsuit against Columbia County: If the plaintiffs had won, it would have cost taxpayers money. And even though they lost, it still cost county taxpayers to defend the fee in court. Only the lawyers won. (Funny how that works, huh?)
Columbia County has thus far opted out of joining the consortium of mostly rural school systems that filed the lawsuit. Good thing: The up-front dues ran are $24,000, and it could cost a lot more as the lawsuit drags on.
Columbia County school officials are still debating whether to get involved. There's no disagreement that the state hasn't lived up to its funding obligations; recent "austerity" cuts have cost the county some $9 million. But there's no good consensus on whether a lawsuit is going to shake more money loose.
And what if it does? Will the extra money come from the same tree that my kids think it grows on? Nope -- it'll come from me and you.
Columbia County taxpayers had to take up the slack when those state cuts hit, and it's local politicians who take responsibility. Rural politicians behind the lawsuit aren't seeking more money from their own communities if they can instead squeeze larger counties by reaching through the state's vault -- and into your pocket.
This can only end in tears -- tears of frustration for you and me, and tears of joy for the lawyers. Come to think of it, there isn't much funny about how that works.
Signs of struggle
No tears were shed at last Monday's first of two debates between school board candidates, but there were some substantial disagreements -- and they had nothing to do with the school board.
The Columbia County Republican Party set up the event and rented Greenbrier High's auditorium for the debate. Chuck Pardue, the Democratic candidate for the District 24 state Senate seat, had asked to face Republican candidate Jim Whitehead, but Party Chairman Lee Muns refused; he wanted to stick to the school board races.
Pardue showed up anyway, politely greeting people as they arrived and handing out campaign literature. But he apparently rubbed Muns the wrong way when he posted yard signs outside the auditorium alongside signs for Republican candidates.
I walked in just in time to hear Muns tell Pardue, "You either move the signs or I'll move them for you." Pardue later uprooted his signs and left, heading to more friendly environs at the county's Democratic Party meeting.
My opinion? Muns had every right to evict Pardue from the building, but Pardue had every right to post his signs outside. The Republicans were paying rent on the auditorium, not on the entire campus.
Expect a replay Oct. 5, when the GOP holds its second school board debate at Lakeside High School.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.