Some local governments are trying to cope with budget shortfalls by going after the least among us. But, judging from a decades-long track record, it was expected that Miami-Dade County, which has been courageously shouldering a model socio-economic safety net even in times of want, would choose a different route.
Not so, according to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara J. Jordan of District 1.
According to a statement which the commissioner issued this week, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, sworn into office only weeks ago, is proposing to lay off 395 employees in the Head Start/Early Start program – or one in two workers. It is difficult to envision a more mean-spirited proposal.
The layoffs, if they happen, will not merely wreak havoc with this program which has been a boon to the poor residents of the country for many years. It will also affect workers whose socio-economic well-being is tied to it, mostly single mothers who will lose not only their jobs but also the benefits they receive as county employees taking care of the children of the disadvantaged.
And all for what? A measly $3.57 million in supposed savings for a budget hole that is probably $400 million big.
What about, as Commissioner Jordan rightly asks, Mayor Gimenez’s plan to consolidate departments and fire the managers who draw the big salaries and benefits?
This proposal cannot be allowed to stand. If this is what Mr. Gimenez intends to do during the two or so years of his tenure, he will find that he has badly misjudged the temperament of a community that he seems too far removed from to understand.
If Mr. Gimenez wants a beacon to guide him, he should look no farther than a couple of blocks away from his lofty office in the Stephen P. Clark Government Center to the headquarters of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho stood up to proposals by state education officials to close two high and one elementary schools that are important institutions in one segment of the community.
“Closing our schools is not an option,” Mr. Carvalho stated.
He was able to make a successful case to the Florida Board of Education, which, at the panel’s meeting in Tampa on Tuesday, granted waivers for the schools – Miami Edison High and Miami Central High and Holmes Elementary – so they would not be shut down because of weak grades. Now he and his team can continue to work on bringing these schools up to par.
Besides the devastating job loss involved, does Mayor Gimenez realize how much more difficult the work of officials such as Mr. Carvalho become when their efforts at educational improvement are stymied by other uncaring, thoughtless officials who cannot see the bigger picture?