8.19.2006

Population decline: Local media gets it wrong again, but ...

When will they ever learn? Earlier in the summer, I took the News Trib to task for screwing up the population decline story, and then another reporter working for the same company does it all over again for the Newton Tab this week!

The missing factor, of course, is illegal immigration. Waltham has thousands, Newton probably hundreds, who are not counted by city or federal censii for reasons including language barriers, fear of deportation, and potential investigation of illegal living arrangements. The reasons why local journalists don't even mention this question likely are a combination of ignorance and political correctness. Why political correctness? Because when you start talking about illegal immigration, you have to start investigating who they are and how they are affecting the community. Then you have to deal with the complaints from rightists, who claim that the paper is painting too sympathetic a portrait of illegal immigrants and not doing enough to highlight crime and the burden on local services, and leftists who claim the media is demonizing illegal immigrants and following some national conservative agenda. The easy way out: Just pretend the issue doesn't exist, and hope that no one notices.

I should note that the Tab article did get one thing right: They zeroed in on the Mayor's Office, and how population declines in Newton will affect planning and financing the new high school. The city's response is laughable. Read Borderline's comments about the Tab article here on the Newton Tab blog.

Additionally, Borderline has commented before on the population decline, which I believe is a long-term trend, and its impact on rebuilding NNHS. I suggested moving back to a one-high school system, like Framingham did in the early 1990s. Here's the main reasoning that I put forth:
Having two high schools made sense in the 1960s when the baby boom unleashed a tidal wave of kids on the school system, and there was the need for a dedicated vocational program in one of the high schools. But it doesn't make sense anymore. Besides demographic trends, and the decline of the Tech-Voc program, the costs associated with maintaining two quality high school campuses and academic programs are just too much. Returning to a single high school would eliminate redundancy and reduce costs. Citizens and officials wouldn't be arguing every two years about overrides, cancellation of important academic programs, cuts in essential city services, or illegally dipping into the CPA fund to pay for questionable school improvements.

I am sure there are people who think Borderline is crazy. But consider the crazy situation Newton is in right now before you dismiss my ideas. An estimated $165 million for the new Newton North? A seemingly never-ending series of overrides and budget shell games? The constant spectre of public employees being laid off, and cuts to services and programs?

And what will happen when it's time to rebuild Newton South High School? No one's talking about it now, but they probably will be in ten years. Where's the money for that going to come from?

Newton had one high school before and the kids did fine. It's time to reconsider returning to that model for Newton's schools, and putting an end to the fear, uncertainty and doubt that will continue to plague the city if it rushes into building an expensive new Newton North.
Please feel free to read and comment on the full text of the original blog post.

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