Which way to vote on slots?
The blogger now known as Teach Baltimore (formerly Epiphany in Baltimore) had a post yesterday about his indecision over how to vote on next week's slots referendum. I think a lot of folks in the education world are in the same boat.
Supposedly, slots would bring in more revenue for public education. When asked how bad the budget cuts for schools will be next year, the answer from the governor's office is that it depends whether or not the referendum passes. The Maryland State Teachers Association has endorsed the measure as an imperfect way of securing money for schools. So has the editorial board of my newspaper.
But Aaron Meisner of StopSlots Maryland responded to the teacher's blog entry saying that the language of the proposed law does not actually guarantee money for schools. The state would have the ability to take away as much money from its general fund as goes into the education "trust fund" from slots, meaning schools could lose as much as they gain. In addition, Meisner says, if casino operators go back to the General Assembly and make the case that they need a tax cut to build their facilities in light of the hard economic times, education could take another hit.
Maybe it's a scare tactic that if we don't vote for slots, education will suffer. But let's pretend for a moment that it's not. Slots fail, and school budgets are slashed. Slots pass, and poor people hoping for a turn of fortune throw away money they don't have. Homelessness and crime increase. Schools get funding, but they find their students' home lives becoming even more unstable than they already are.
Either way, it seems, the kids get a raw deal.