While public-school officials are issuing a sigh of relief over increased state funding for K-12 education for the upcoming fiscal year, parents and taxpayers should stay on top of the situation.
It's a good thing that the schools are getting extra money, but the real question is how will school superintendents and local school committees spend the cash?
Will the money go for new technology and computer labs for students or will it go toward providing higher union wages for school personnel?
We're not dictating where the money should go. We firmly believe it should be left up to school leaders to decide how best to spend tax dollars on improving educational opportunities for students.
But that's easier said than done.
School districts never seem to have enough money to do all the things they're asked to do when the real focus should be on classroom learning.
Good school districts know how to drill down on what is most important, and cut out the luxuries.
Their leaders, including elected officials, have the courage to make hard but effective choices to advance the cause of education rather than pander to special interests.
In this day and age, "junk" classes are creeping into school curricula that don't belong, except to satisfy feel-good trends and social causes. You know the ones we're talking about. They drain valuable resources that should be directed toward practical and rigorous coursework for the purpose of inspiring student ambition and achievement.
So why are we concerned?
Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Legislature just agreed on a state budget that delivers a record $5 billion to Massachusetts public schools. It includes a 5 percent funding increase from the prior year.
A number of school districts, including those in the Nashoba Valley, could have faced budget deficits that might have necessitated staff reductions if the extra money didn't materialize. These deficits will now be wiped out -- at least for one year.
Sadly, the original structural deficit still remains, masked by the new influx of cash, unless school officials make a commitment to audit all programs, cut out the waste, hold the line on salary increases in new contracts, and basically check the checkbook.
Will that happen? It's doubtful.
And this is why we challenge all parents with school-age children to go into your neighborhood school and survey the textbooks and other resource materials being used for learning.
See how many are out of date: Do they mention the tragedy of 9/11 from 17 years ago? Do they mention the visionary science of Stephen Hawking? Do they mention the entrepreneurial skills of the late Steven Jobs?
If not, you should ask why, because someone is shortchanging your child's education.
Remember, more money doesn't solve the problem; it just masks the old ones that keep hanging around.