Ya just gotta love MN2020. God bless ‘em. If we ever have an earthquake in Minnesota you can bet they’ll says it’s the Republicans' fault. Their latest bit of non-partisan dispersion casting is a small-minded piece by John Fitzgerald, “A Small Example of What School Cuts Have Wrought.”
“It’s a small story,” writes Fitzgerald to the sentimental strains of a cadre of the world’s smallest violins, “but one indicative of where Minnesota education finances are today. Waseca schools are switching from traditional plastic lunch trays to Styrofoam trays. Doing so will save $30,000, but will cost six employees their jobs.”
As a conservative I mourn the loss of the traditional plastic lunch tray, cast on the ash heap of history with the once-indispensible slide rule and the ubiquitous pink “While you were out …” phone pad. It’s always sad when great traditions, like having a class valedictorian, die. Don’t we all miss the songs of happy field hands harvesting crops in the dark of night before greedy farmers replaced migrant workers with mechanized equipment?
Indeed, that miserly attitude is precisely what is rearing its ugly head right in Waseca public schools, according to the ever-vigilant Fitzgerald.
Sure, washing trays requires “personnel, chemicals, water, heat and electricity to run 100 loads a day. At the junior high, a three-sink system has replaced the electric dishwasher to hand wash pots, pans and miscellaneous utensils with a wash, rinse, sanitize procedure.”And OK, switching to #6 Styrofoam trays means no more paper boats or cups or wax paper sheets needed, making the total garbage output smaller. Even with throwing the trays away, there is one less sack of garbage each lunch at the junior high. But six people are going to lose their jobs.
Such drastic cuts – reducing expenses and cutting waste -- would not be necessary, says Fitzgerald, had not state cut Waseca school funding by an inflation-adjusted 14 percent. Without those cuts, there’d be money in the budget for benevolent hiring. But noooo. Fiscal accountability has, in a district like Waseca, made cutting jobs to save $30,000 in the budget “a big deal.”
OK, time to get serious, because a person losing his or her job is serious. But from Fitzgerald’s article it is clear that putting resources into the six specific jobs lost at Waseca was consuming more of society’s wealth than was being produced. Fitzgerald wants the moral high ground because he can point to six specific (probably low-income) people who lost their jobs, but the economic reality is because the school is providing the same lunch service at less cost more resources are available for more productive uses. Somewhere, albeit unseen, someone will have a job that otherwise might not exist. (Maybe even a diversity counselor.)
Producing more for less is always better for the overall economy. What Fitzgerald seems to be saying is it is too bad the Waseca schools weren’t flusher so they could continue to operate without having to worry about doing things more efficiently and effectively. It’s too bad the school district can’t do a little benevolent job creation at public expense. It’s too damn bad that wishes aren’t horses.
And we wonder why the government-run public education system has become a money pit?