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A key to stopping decline is for you to get involved

The kids are back in school.

High school football season is in full swing.

Those supposed lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are behind us -- if they ever existed.

And life tends to become a bit more serious.

Speaking of serious, as Franklin County's students headed back to the classroom on Monday, they were greeted by school officials who still don't have a budget.

The reason? The state General Assembly can't get its act together. It's just that simple.

The General Assembly, now entirely controlled by the Republican Party and with a Republican governor in the state's mansion, failed to meet its July 1 deadline for passing a budget.

And then it missed its self-imposed later deadline.

Incredible as it may seem, school officials -- and other groups that depend on state funds -- are left to twist in the wind.

For the schools, this is a very big deal since teachers -- and teacher aides -- are paid mostly with state money with the exception of relatively minor local supplements.

Honestly, how are schools supposed to get children settled into classrooms and their noses back into books when many of the most critical, front-line workers like teacher aides don't even know if they will have jobs in a few weeks?

It is an inexcusable failure -- and yet "leaders" in Raleigh make excuses and brush off concerns as if all this was no big deal. But it is a big deal that is costing us $43,000 a day for each day they procrastinate. So far, the estimated cost of this mess exceeds $1.3 million, money that would have gone a long way in the state's school systems.

If we're serious about improving our schools -- and making other areas of government function better -- North Carolina's "system" needs to be reformed.

There is no way we can look at long-range improvements and changes to public education without long-term budgets that can be counted on.

Imagine trying to run your household year-to-year with no idea of what your income will be and whether you'll even have any income.

How can school boards and administrators, let alone classroom teachers, plan ahead without knowing who will be there to actually do the work?

And that's just one area of concern in this delayed budget process. Confusion about fiscal matters makes planning difficult to impossible -- and the result inevitably is wasteful, inefficient spending at many levels of government.

The solution is one most of us don't want to hear because the solution isn't to let "George" do it, whoever George is!

The key is to get involved, to become part of the process and to be part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

If you want better schools for your children, get off the couch and get involved. Go to PTA or PTO meetings, meet with your kids' teachers and principals, help raise money and demand better performance.

More importantly, attend school board meetings -- and county commission meetings -- because that's where the financial decisions, are being made.

Perhaps most importantly, get to know your state officials -- from governor to state reps to state senators -- and demand that they stop playing these silly political games of keep-away with funds and do the right thing for once.

Demand stable, long-term financing for schools and other government departments, urge better planning and then help to ensure that the plans are followed and the money is used wisely.

This means getting off the couch, turning off the electronics and forgetting about silly social media and get re-involved in the real world of education, politics and government.

Otherwise, we're going to see things continue to decline and politicians continue to stand in circles pointing fingers at each other to deflect blame for a system that's in serious trouble.

The fix is in your hands, folks.

You have the power to speak out, to demand better and to effect change through the ballot box.

How are you going to respond?


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