Columbia County School Superintendent Charles Nagle gave an impassioned speech the other day, both defiant and scolding, toward parents who likewise have been passionate in their defense of middle-school athletics yet quiet about other budget-cutting actions.
Nagle is upset that so many parents opposed trimming sports, yet made no such pleas on behalf of all the teachers taking pay cuts.
He is absolutely correct. But he's also selling those parents short.
It is human nature to pay the closest attention to things that directly affect you. Those parents know that elimination of a particular program very well could prevent their child's participation in that activity.
It's harder for those parents to see a direct impact from reducing teacher pay. It isn't because those parents are unsympathetic. To the contrary; it's because they haven't seen their children's education suffer, and take it for granted that it won't in spite of the budget cuts. Their silence is, in part, confidence in the schools.
Even the elimination of middle school Spanish drew few complaints because the board chose to phase it out, eliminating the program for students who have never had the class.
Columbia County's school officials are notoriously averse to controversy. They practically break out in a rash at the threat of drama.
For that reason alone, Nagle shouldn't be so quick to criticize parents for failing to speak up on behalf of beleaguered teachers: The only likely way at this point for the board to restore their pay is through a tax increase - and that would really bring out the parental pitchforks.
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