BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — The Palm Beach County School Board and Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa this summer spent $6 Million of taxpayer money on the highly criticized and often inoperable “iReady” diagnostic computer learning system now in use in schools county wide. No other academic program — or county program, for that matter — has generated the volume of hate mail and criticism that iReady has in the five years that BocaNewsNow.com has existed. We have received emails from parents and teachers in school districts nationwide telling of how they dropped the system. How it was a waste of money. How it is inoperable on Macs and iPads — the computers and tablets of choice for many students.
Now, claiming there just isn’t enough money to fix schools, pay for busses or computers (to use iReady), the school system wants a penny sales tax increase. That would raise Palm Beach County sales tax to seven percent. Supporters claim it will eventually add $2 Billion to the county’s bank account — half of which will be earmarked for schools. Additional funds will be used for non-school related projects countywide.
BocaNewsNow.com, of course, supports the best for students and teachers. There is never enough money for schools. But it is a problem when those responsible for spending taxpayer money make frivolous purchases that look good in press releases but only teach the lesson: “buyer beware.”
We know about the $6 Million spent on iReady. What don’t we know about?
Homeowners in Palm Beach County have enjoyed decreasing property taxes over the past several years. That always looks good on paper and is something candidates use as a “vote for me” rallying cry. But why not raise property taxes just a bit to generate the needed funds and leave sales tax alone?
How about a bond issue for specific purchases, programs and enhancements?
A sales tax increase runs the risk of helping the county while hurting businesses that operate here. Why would shoppers in South Palm Beach County, for instance, pay more when they could go south 200 yards to Broward County and pay less? And why hurt those who are barely getting by — renting, on food stamps, surviving by purchasing necessities at a ‘dollar’ store — instead of just raising taxes for property owners?
The intention of the penny sales tax hike is unquestionably good. Anyone can wrap their arms around the concept that better is better. But this is the wrong way to do it. The mandate that citizen watchdog groups will oversee the spending is absurd. The citizen watchdog group known as the Palm Beach County School Board was supposed to protect taxpayer money, yet was hoodwinked into buying a computer program that just doesn’t work.
The $6 Million spent on iReady would buy a lot of school busses and computers.
Until Dr. Robert Avossa and the School Board secure a refund for iReady, we say vote NO on the penny sales tax increase.