Over the Hill

A parable for Paso schools

As usual, I seem to be walking up the down escalator. Last week I wrote that the state budget crisis is painfully squeezing Paso Robles schools. I said I’d probably vote “Yes” for an $8-a-month parcel tax to help the schools.

Several readers responded by e-mail, Internet and telephone. The majority disagreed. Some were against any new taxes. One man said, “Government needs to learn to budget the dollars it has.”

The only response I could think of was this fable: Once upon a time a sheepherder named Howard lived in Monterey County with his two sheep dogs name Shep and Goldie. The hardworking dogs managed Howard’s sheep for him. They guided the sheep to safe pastures and good water. The sheep thrived and produced bumper crops of wool.

Because of Shep and Goldie’s good work, Howard had spare time and spare money. He bought a portable TV, a portable generator and gas for the generator.

Then one day he noticed the price of gas had climbed sky high; and the price of dog food had also climbed. He convinced himself the best way to make ends meet was to teach his dogs to eat less. He spent the same amount on dog food, but of course it bought less.

Soon Shep and Goldie got weak. They couldn’t properly guide and train the sheep.

The sheep got into bad water and sparse pastures. Some sheep strayed and were lost. The remaining sheep produced low-grade wool and less of it.

So, pretty soon Howard’s TV went dark; he could no longer afford gas for the generator.

Sure, today’s prices are high and our incomes are uncertain, but starving our schools won’t help. It will make things worse.

More young Americans will stray and get lost. And fewer will be prepared to support and defend America in our challenging future.

Some readers also said school employees should share in any sacrificing to rescue the schools. I’m still thinking about that. A 5 percent pay cut for all of them would save about as much as an $8-a-month parcel tax would produce.

Let’s say the average teacher makes $50,000 per year. A 5 percent pay cut would cost that teacher $2,500 per year. But an $8-a-month parcel tax would only cost each homeowner about $100 per year. So a teacher, if she owns a home, would be sacrificing 26 times as hard as the rest of us.

But lots of the rest of us have also suffered income cuts in this recession, so why shouldn’t school employees? I’m still thinking about that.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372