A cynical observer might say the Worcester County Commissioners’ vote Tuesday to deny Worcester County Public Schools the additional funding the school board sought for the year ahead had less to do with transparency than it did with politics and the desire to establish more control over the school system.
It’s hardly coincidental that public schools and public school teachers across the country are under attack by politicians who believe these institutions are responsible for producing young citizens who, for a variety of reasons, probably won’t vote for them once they reach the age of majority.
Knowing that makes doubtful the commissioner majority’s constant assertion that the absence of transparency is the only reason for its refusal to fund the school budget as presented. More likely, this last-minute claim of transparency problems is being used as the justification for Tuesday’s vote, rather than the cause.
Were the commissioners’ desire to see all the numbers so urgent this year, they would have advised the board of education in January of this significant deviation from what had been standard budgetary practice for decades.
But no, they waited until the board presented its numbers and then feigned surprise over its lack of detail. That’s difficult to accept considering that the kind of budget breakdown the commissioners received this year is the same as they received last year, the year before that and so on. Why they would expect something different after all this time is a puzzler in its own right.
Considering that virtually all government budgets contain some degree of questionable spending — the county government budget included — there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical, critical or asking for more information. That should be expected or even required.
Still, it is difficult to buy into all the sincere reassurances that a lack of transparency was the only cause of this budgetary failure. A more jaundiced eye would find it equally challenging to feel certain that politics had nothing to do with it.