Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Fairport fair in breaking law

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” my mom always used to say.

Actually, I’m not sure if she ever said that, but moms across the world have been saying something similar for eons.

And it’s generally true.

School boards across the county and state are using exactly that logic in refusing to go along with a Rochester-area district that recently told the state that it wouldn’t ask their residents to vote on a school budget until it had solid figures from the state.

After the Fairport (home of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter) School District passed the resolution March 20, the school board president faxed a copy of the resolution to other state school districts and elected officials.

“Will you join us in refusing to vote on the school budget until you have the correct information?” the letter asked school board presidents.

Locally, our school boards have resoundingly said, “No.”

Lockport Superintendent Bruce Fraser said it wouldn’t set a good example for students.

Superintendents from Niagara Wheatfield, Niagara Falls and Newfane agreed.

You see, not having a budget vote on the third Tuesday of May (May 20 this year) would be breaking the law and school boards and their superintendents could be removed from their jobs.

And I can surely understand that line of thinking. I’d never tell my children that breaking the law is okay.

But I’d rather my kids see me being just than legal.

Sometimes laws themselves are unjust. And obeying an unjust law makes the person obeying the law unjust, too.

While not adopting a budget and putting it out to vote on May 20 would be considered illegal by the state, I would imagine that a majority of local taxpayers who our school boards represent would prefer it to our rolling over and taking it.

The state’s “do as we say — not as we do” attitude for the past 19 years stinks to high heaven.

I say it’s time we do something about it.

Call your local school board president and tell them what you think. Your phone call could be the one that puts them over the edge and makes them decide to stop taking it.

And your school board telling the state what it really thinks could make our elected officials stand up and take notice: “Hey, we might have to listen to them.”

In turn, our senators and assemblymen could very well turn to the three men in a room (Gov. George Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno) and tell them they’re not going to stand for it any more.

And Bruno, Silver and Pataki might do something instead of just pretending to care about the people.

In the end we could see real change.

But first you’ve got to pick up the phone.