The latest Alumni Review has a thoughtful article by Morty on the relationship between the College and the local community. As with most everything Morty writes, it is worth a read. I have questions, however, about one passage:
Williams exists to educate students. The greatest determinant of the quality of their education is the quality of faculty and staff. We can only recruit and retain the best if the local community is healthy. So when the College, after careful consideration, invests in the local infrastructure, especially in public education and healthcare, every dollar benefits our current and future students. This includes the pledges we’re paying over several years toward the construction of a new Williamstown Elementary School building and to the capital campaign of North Adams Regional Hospital as well as a cash infusion to forestall a potentially disastrous budget crisis at Mt. Greylock Regional High School.
There is a sense in which this is reasonable and true. But that is also a sense in which it is misleading and self-serving. For now, I just want to focus on the budget “crisis” at the local high school, a topic that we have already touched on.
In simple terms, the “crisis” is that the good citizens of Williamstown don’t want to raise their (property) taxes. If they vote to raise their own taxes, there is no crisis. If they don’t, then they need to set the budget for everything that the community spends money on — including the local high school — appropriately. All the other towns in Massachusetts, my own included, face the same set of trade offs.
But Williamstown is, potentially, different because it has a great big sugar daddy in the form of Williams College. In fact, reading between the lines, it isn’t hard to picture a scenario in which the school board knows (Ralph Bradburd, professor of economics and school board member, has known Morty Schapiro, professor of economics and college president, for more than 20 years) that the College will step in with a “cash infusion” to make up for any budget shortfall.
I predict that this is precisely what will happen in the next few months.
No doubt Aidan will accuse me of being cheap [He’s right! — ed], but large “cash infusions” should be reserved for items that directly benefit the students.