Every day, as we watch the upheaval across the nation with protesters battling systemic injustice, it can all feel like society itself is embroiled in violence from Times Square in New York City all the way to the front lawn of the White House.
But here on Long Island, we have seen relative civility. We were happy to see the peaceful relationship between the Suffolk County cops on hand and the protesters in Port Jefferson Station June 1. We hope that peace continues into the future, but it also reminds us not to lose focus at the local level, as events could soon have massive impacts on local schools and could drastically impact the ability of residents to afford Long Island.
School districts will be tallying up budget and board of election votes June 9. This year, all residents will be required to send in absentee ballots, and their votes will likely count more than ever before.
This year’s school budget votes will set a precedent. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, voters will be required to complete a mail-in ballot and return to their school district’s official address by 5 p.m. June 9. Board of education and budget votes usually result in low voter turnout, but this year with everyone receiving a ballot in the mail and being able to cast their vote whenever they find the time, there could potentially be a landmark change in how many people vote.
The number of voters this year is something we’ll be interested in seeing. We and letter writers have expressed before on this page that voting for board of education members and on school district budgets are important in and of themselves as the cost of running schools accounts for a significant amount on local tax bills.
Our board of ed members are the people who make the decisions that not only affect students’ learning but also how they are protected as the pandemic leaves deep scars in the fabric of society. It seems like schools are constantly dealing with more and more issues. And now our BOE members will need to figure out how to best protect children and those who work with them from an invisible enemy, a virus that anyone can have and spread without even showing symptoms.
There will be tough decisions to be made this summer as to what our schools will look like this fall. Will there be a need for fewer children in each classroom leading to more teachers needing to be hired? Will there be more remote learning, and how can this virtual approach to teaching be refined?
Look at your school district to see how they are managing the economic impact. We have seen a myriad of interesting initiatives to lower the annual tax rate increase, but all residents have to understand that New York State may drastically impact district finances in the coming months with potentially drastic cuts to state aid.
What may seem like a small deed that can just be ignored is actually an important responsibility. Make sure you have received your absentee ballot for school elections — and stay home and vote.