Schenectady school officials are hoping that the lure of getting something for nothing will persuade voters to approve a $70 million capital improvement project on March 25, and they’re probably right.
But will Schenectady taxpayers really be getting $70 million worth of middle school makeovers and other needed building improvements for nothing, as district officials and those planning the redesign imply? Not if they also pay taxes to New York state, which would be picking up every penny, or nearly every penny, of the tab.
A good many Schenectadians do, of course, but it’s still largely in their interests to approve the referendum, as it is other voters’. (Building anew wouldn’t qualify for nearly as much state aid, and district taxpayers would get stuck with a whale of a bill.)
Schenectady schools have all kinds of problems that this redesign won’t touch — at least not directly — but it would address at least a couple. Abandoning the badly deteriorated Elmer Avenue School building is one of them, and staying there is pretty much not an option. Reducing the size of the unmanageably large Mont Pleasant Middle School is another. Even under the new K-5, three-middle-school alignment, younger middle-school students will be physically segregated from older ones, which is a concept that has had some success in the high school’s ninth grade.
Will the realignment help solve the district’s assorted discipline problems? It might, which in turn might also help improve classroom performance. So it seems worth a try, especially since maintaining the current hodgepodge (a mix of crowded elementaries and middle schools, as well as K-8s) would also be expensive, lack uniformity and thus wouldn’t be fair.
Although Schenectadians who do pay state taxes will bear some of the burden for this project, it will be infinitesimally small relative to the total cost because taxpayers from all over the state will be chipping in. If it’s got to be done, it’s definitely the way to do it.