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Jamestown’s P-Tech Mess Didn’t Need To Have Happened

We’re glad to see that Dr. Kevin Whitaker, new Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, and the city Board of Education are trying to find money to keep 17 P-TECH students enrolled in the Dunkirk skilled trades program.

That doesn’t mean we disagree with the board’s earlier decision not to fund the program. That choice makes sense financially. We do, however, support trying to find money in the existing budget to keep the students who have committed to the P-TECH program enrolled.

Such a tough choice might not have been necessary in the first place had state officials been more clear regarding state aid to schools. And it is in that vein that something said by board member Nine Karbacka was truly striking.

“It was becoming an awfully political issue, not only locally with our local manufacturers that wanted us to continue, but the fact that we were getting letters from the state Education Department, phone calls from the governor’s office, some of which were not replied to very positively,” Karbacka said. “It was putting us in a very dangerous political place. We need — as much as this governor is difficult — we need as much support as we can get out of him. We don’t want to be the person that is on his bad list. I didn’t want to see P-TECH put us there.”

If Jamestown’s 17 students remaining in the P-TECH program was such a hot-button political issue, the governor could have solved the problem in 10 minutes and come out looking like a hero by simply saying Jamestown will receive its previously expected levels of state aid. He could have even indicated the district’s P-Tech program participation would be funded while other cuts were possible.

No fuss. No muss. Problem solved.

But the governor didn’t do that. He chose instead to put the screws to a local school district that was only trying to deal with the chaos the governor and his adminsitration caused in the first place with vague warnings about aid cuts if state revenues fall too far or if the federal government doesn’t pony up more money.

And it’s saying something that acting financially responsibly with taxpayer money could, as Karbaka said, put the district on “his bad list.” We didn’t think being responsible with the people’s money was a bad thing – but apparently that’s the vibe the governor gives.

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