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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Gazette Vision: Keeping Voters In The Dark

The last time I wrote about the Janesville School District budget cuts, people in charge of the situation blamed falling enrollment as the primary reason for the shortfall. This, coming on the heels of promoting a $70.8 million school utility upgrade and expansion.

But the budget debates are now over and with further cuts looming down the road for the next budget, its beginning to appear like the successfully passed $70.8 million referendum will hang around the necks of the school board and taxpayers for years to come. Many Janesville residents don’t sympathize.

Consider the letter to the editor in the March 5th Gazette. Here the writer justifiably accuses the Gazette and the school board of not being forthright with voters during the referendum campaign up to election time. Although the referendum passed 13,000 to 10,000, many people feel that if they were informed of the consecutive annual school budget short-falls during the run-up, the outcome would have been different.
JG letter Excerpt:
It appears that this impending problem was intentionally ignored so the building referendums would pass.
What is interesting here is that at the end of the letter, the Gazette responded with one of their "Editors Notes."
JG Excerpt:
Editors Note: The Gazette reported March 14, 2006: "The district’s outlook is bleak for 2007-08,”and “a projection based on current state law would require another $1.8 million budget cut in 2007-2008."

Our editorial April 13, 2006: "District residents should realize program and staff cuts likely will get harder in the years ahead." We quoted then-board President Nancy Sonntag as saying, "Next year, we're going to be looking at cutting programs."
April 13th was the last time Janesville taxpayers seen a major article about the impending budget cuts all the way through the summer and fall of 2006 and right through November 7th when the referendum was finally passed. Not until after five days later on November 12th did the Gazette run a story in the local section where the school budget shortfall reared up its ugly head. After the referendum passed, the school budget shortfall became almost a weekly syndication in the Gazette, but not until Janesville voters were kept in the dark for nearly seven months.

Other dates are important too, like September 26, 2006 when the Gazette ran a front-page story about the TLC group promoting a “yes” vote and again, not one word was mentioned of the budget shortfall. One wonders how much impact the TLC promotion would have had on the referendum if they campaigned in March and April and remained silent thereafter.

And November 5th, just two days before the voters ran to the polls the Gazette encouraged a “yes” vote in their editorial titled "Use vision to vote “yes” to better schools," where the Gazette offered a reminder about their own guiding editorial principles but absolutely nothing about the impending school budget short-falls.

This proves two of my own maxims. No.1, people have short memories and No.2, what you don't read in the Gazette is usually right here.

1 comment:

Harp said...

This Webpage has got to be the best kept secret in Rock County/Janesville. We could sure use one of these in Walworth County.

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