The fate of the Gary Community Schools is in the hands of Gary voters, those who have taken advantage of early voting and those who will be voting on Election Day.
Faced with $75 million in debt, voters will be asked to support a referendum aimed at assisting the school system to retire the debt so that the system can begin to get on sound footing.
The Gary Schools, much like public entities, have been negatively affected by the state mandated caps. With implementation of the caps the school system’s budget shrank from $111 million to $80 million in just under a year.
As the system struggles to address these financial concerns the have looked at a number of ways to stem the tide. Among the ideas that have been discussed is supporting a bill that would allow the GCSC to release the school system from the debt as Gary Charter schools were allowed to do. Earlier this year Sen. Earline Rogers stepped in and sponsored legislation that resulted in the system receiving funds from the state.
In addition to those efforts the state through the Distressed Unit Appeals Board brought in a financial consultant to aid in getting Gary’s fiscal house in order. The referendum is being viewed as the last chance the Gary Community System will get to solve the problems and state officials are watching to see if Gary residents are willing to step in and lend a hand.
To be fair, there are vocal opponents to the measure that say if it is passed, it would mean higher property taxes for the city’s property owners. However, if it fails to pass, it very well could mean an end to the school system, as we know it. The Gary school system may be absorbed into neighboring districts and prove an undue hardship on the students and their parents.
While the effect would not be felt immediately, over time it would have a devastating effect. Taxpayers, whether pro or con on the issue, would still be faced with paying taxes on a dissolved school system.
Many of the opponents opposed it for other selfish reasons such as having no children in the Gary schools and therefore they don’t feel they have an obligation.
It would also be a significant blow to efforts to grow and develop the city. As many are aware before a business considers moving to a city the first thing they inquire about is the quality of the school system.
If there is no school system, no one will be willing to consider locating here.
It can also affect the quality of our public safety, as workers in that field are also concerned about the children’s education and quality of that education. As the Gary schools continue to make academic progress, a sudden change can negatively impact that progress.
It is time that we begin to take a realistic view of what is at stake. Anyone that utters platitudes such as “The children are our future” and does nothing to ensure that future is a hypocrite.
We strongly recommend a Yes vote on the referendum.