The new .25 millage tax increase proposed by Superintendent Tim McGonegal is nothing more than sleight of hand.
The increase does nothing to address the real problems in the Manatee County schools, which include dismal academic achievement, a deplorable dropout rate as well as an unacceptable graduation rate.
We already know that we have hundreds of empty seats in the current schools that we have and great deal of money could be saved reorganizing and shutting down some of the schools in excess of the current needs. Manatee County has continued to build new schools when the research does not support higher achievement with a new building.
The builders and developers however certainly did profit — even if our students did not. If we look at the true graduation rate here in Manatee, those students who enter high school and receive a regular diploma after four years, we are looking at around 50% — terrible.
I submit that Manatee is suffering not so much from fiscal woes but rather from a lack of real educational leadership at the top that continues to do business as usual as long as the taxpayers and parents permit this to happen.
“If you always do what you have always done, you always get what you always got.”
And that is not pretty.
Let’s look at some specifics. Manatee had only two National Merit Scholarship winners this past school year. Manatee only had six semifinalists. Hillsborough County had 64, Miami-Dade had 62, Broward County had 59, Seminole County had 43, Sarasota had 29, and the list goes on and on.
Manatee also does not have one accredited elementary or middle school. When it comes to National Blue Ribbon School awards — schools recognized for doing an outstanding job with their respective students — Manatee has none. Yet there are hundreds of other districts in the state — many of which deal with a multitude of problems ± a large number of which dealing — that have achieved this distinction.
The list of deficiencies continues to grow including one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state.
So, I submit the least of the problems here in Manatee simply will not be solved with adding more money unless there are some fundamental changes made in dealing with the prime objective of educating students, and that has not been done nor even proposed.
Additional money for the schools, I think not. I rest my case.
Editor’s note: The Manatee County School District website states the graduation rate for the 2008/2009 school year was 79.41% and the dropout rate was 3.6%.