Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 at 9:00am

Metz and Barrow Ignore the Affect of Jobs on Schools

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Metz and Barrow Ignore the Affect of Jobs on Schools
November 24, 2009 

On Saturday, The Daily Commercial printed the My Voice column below by Don Magruder, Chairman of Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C.  It’s a real world analogy of the government’s disconnect with job losses inside Lake County.

Last Monday night, the Lake County School Board delayed making a decision recommending to the County Commission any changes in collecting school impact fees.  Because of the horrific economy, many counties in Florida have suspended, slashed, delayed, or put moratoriums on impact fees in an effort to encourage growth.  The Board’s discussion focused only on delaying impact fees until the home was completed, which provides no incentive to invest.

School Board Member, Larry Metz, said, “It’s not the fundamental responsibility of the school board to provide stimulus to get the economy going.”  Metz was emphatic that the duties of the School Board do not include creating jobs, but only student stations.  When asked about deferring impact fees, School Board Member, Cindy Barrow, in her opposition made a snide remark, “We don’t have half a student coming to school”.  Metz and Barrow’s positions are extremely callous toward the plight of working people in Lake County.

Lake County’s economy and unemployment are having a devastating affect on the School District.  First, the School District has a serious issue this year with absenteeism and tardiness because so many students are now homeless – yes, homeless. Students are being forced to live with friends, extended families, or in deplorable situations like tents and cars because their parents have no work.  According to Jay Marshall, Director of Student Services at Lake County Schools, the District has identified 689 students who are now homeless.  That is up 113% from last year’s number of 324.

There are 21,054 students in the School District who are now on free or reduced lunches, which represents 52.7% of the total lunches served.  This is up 14.1% from last year.  I suspect this Thanksgiving many Lake County kids will not have enough to eat because school is closed.

Mr. Metz and Ms. Barrow, you do have the responsibility of creating jobs and stimulating the economy because the very children you purport to serve their best interest are going homeless and hungry.  In your zeal to build these shrines of school excess and to stop growth, you have forgotten the most important individuals – the students.

Every government leader in Lake County must get focused on job creation.  Getting this economy going is more important than portable classrooms, gopher turtles, impact fees, comprehensive land plans, landscape ordinances, Niagara lawsuits, sign ordinances, or any other darn plan that acts as an economic roadblock.  Too much time is being devoted to the things which have no importance to a man or a woman who is unemployed.  I bet there are 689 homeless kids who, if given the option today, would much rather go to class in a portable than be homeless.

Lake County is losing a generation of kids due to misguided economic policies by our local politicians.  Lake County has too many local advantages to have this number of students in such dire straits.  While the national economy impacts Lake County, most of our problems are a result of failures in leadership at all levels.

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