By Lee Webber
After reading with great interest that DOE Superintendent, Kenneth Swanson is considering a recommendation to close certain schools that he deemed unnecessary for use due to their design, condition and actual student population raises some serious questions.
One of them is according to a recent Daily News story, public student population has dropped from roughly 40,000 students to approximately 28,000. If true, this raises even more questions.
Some of this decline has been driven by the fact that government tax dollars are being used to pay for students to attend private charter schools due to the decrepit conditions of public schools.
Given that those numbers are actually correct; it equates to an approximate 30% decline in overall enrollment in public schools so closing a few schools may make sense.
But then what will be the next excuse for using public monies to fund private enterprise school businesses?
If cutting the number of public schools is the decision, that begs the question of staffing cuts, supply reductions, fewer meals served, maintenance declines/shifts, administrative need declines etc.
That being the case how do we justify the use of public tax dollars to fund private business schools in the future. Do we privatize education on a grander scale?
However, there was nary a mention of this possibility in the news story.
The question of busing did rear its head and while there would likely be less need for busing, the Department of Public Works has never had a stellar record when it comes to bus maintenance. At least not that I can recall.
Each morning during my drive to Hagatna when school is in session I see the same rusty yellow buses speeding down the highways with their precious cargo.
But I digress, there remains the ever-present question of deciding what schools should be closed and what schools should be repaired and remain open.
Then there is the question of public meetings to allow the parents to share their thoughts and emotions along with the teacher union’s input on any tightening the number of actual teachers required to teach 30 percent fewer students.
Then comes the cost for overhaul of each school, its present and potential capacity, design, location and potential use and the financial feasibility given refurbishment requirements and actual available funds.
Additionally, the requirements for available contractors to handle such work and how long that bidding process will take. Not only that but the questions of available supplies. If supplies are not available how long will it take to get them here?
This entire exercise screams of the typical government approach to doing too little too soon. Turning a blind eye to obvious critical needs while simultaneously funding pet projects or dreamy wishes that may lead to re-election.
All at the cost to taxpayers and their families.
Then, expecting someone on a white horse (in this case Swanson) to come riding in with a magic wand to fix the mess they’ve consciously allowed to fester for far too many years.
It appears that Mr. Swanson has taken the challenge hook-line and sinker. For his sake, I hope the bait was tasty!
Come on Guam, find people for public office who will ask the hard questions and in far more cases make the tough and unpopular decisions to do the right thing at the right time.
Let’s make Guam great again!
Lee P. Webber is a businessman and civic advocate, the former publisher of the Pacific Daily News, a former president and publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser, and a former director of operations for USA Today International/Asia