Thank goodness there are some board members across the nation who have the courage to stand up to the establishment…
By Steve Gunn -
QUEENSBURY, N.Y. – In school districts across America, too many timid school board members tend to sit still, keep quiet and rubber-stamp decisions made by school administrators.
And too often those decisions result in an insane waste of tax dollars.
Thank goodness there are some board members across the nation who have the courage to stand up to the establishment and question the wisdom of the status quo, even if they stand alone.
Unfortunately one of those leaders is reportedly leaving his post.
Doug Beaty only served on the Queensbury, N.Y. school board for two short years. But in that time he was widely noted for rocking the boat on a regular basis.
Beaty reportedly fought a one-man war to contain labor costs and control property taxes in his financially-challenged school district.
He thought employees should take pay freezes to help the district avoid the layoff of younger teachers and higher taxes for residents. He thought overall labor costs should be controlled before the district drove itself over a financial cliff.
Beaty was often the lone “no” vote on financial matters that the board considered. He reportedly made more than a few enemies along the way. As the local newspaper put it, “His criticism of district spending has sometimes irked board members and guests in the audience.”
That fact should be considered a badge of honor. Too many union leaders and school employees believe school districts have a sacred responsibility to meet their financial desires, regardless of the cost.
Beaty was apparently the type of board member to remind everyone that schools exists, first and foremost, for students. In hard times the adults should accept less to make sure kids aren’t shortchanged by the rough economy and lack of tax revenues.
“We can’t keep giving raises and unsustainable medical benefits,” he was quoted as saying. “If we keep doing this, we will keep laying off people.”
The lone dissenter
Beaty is leaving the Queensbury school board in January for professional reasons. He reportedly has a new job that will keep him away from the school district on a regular basis.
But his short service earned the respect of at least one local journalist – Ken Tingley, editor of the Post-Star. He penned an editorial last week, thanking Beaty for providing a voice for fiscal sanity in an environment dominated by free-spending union robots.
“During his tenure, Beaty was regularly the lone dissenter on budget and salary increases, and instrumental in starting a conversation about what taxpayers could afford and how much school boards should spend,” Tingley wrote.
“Queensbury taxpayers owe him a debt of gratitude for fighting the good fight, even though he was regularly outvoted. I know that frustrated him, but he should know he did indeed make a difference. Even if you disagreed with him, you had to admire his relentless commitment in trying to curb spending.
“I know many who work for schools characterize Beaty as anti-education. That is unfair and untrue. As we are seeing now, if expenses are not harnessed soon, the quality of education will be impacted dramatically, and that was what Beaty was trying to prevent.”
Tingley offered a sampling of Beaty’s resignation letter, which offered some insights which should be taken seriously by his fellow board members.
Beaty wrote that Queensbury district is only a few years away from insolvency if spending patterns don’t change. He wrote that there is an unfortunate “business as usual approach” to negotiating expensive contracts with various employee unions, and faulted the district for spending more on labor as the number of students declines.
“The simple fact is that the cost of insurance is so far out of touch compared to the private sector that it is laughable,” Beaty wrote in his resignation letter. “I have all the numbers between the private and public sector and it is almost criminal what the difference is. Yet this board continues to march the lemmings (taxpayers) over the cliff.
“The simple fact is the total compensation package for the teachers union as well as the other eight unions in (the district) is unsustainable. We cannot afford 15 sick days (out of a 180-day school year), two personal days, a $20,000 handshake upon retirement for every teacher, and on and on it goes.”
The sad part is that those words come from someone who’s leaving the education scene. We can only hope the example he set will inspire others to serve on school boards and demand accountability from the people who run the schools on a daily basis.