New Castle News

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June 13, 2013

Our Opinion: Vo-tech nursing program faces elimination in budget crunch

NEW CASTLE — The past few years have been difficult financially for Pennsylvania’s education system.

Tight budgets produced by an economic slowdown, weakening support from Harrisburg and an ever-increasing rise in personnel costs has created a fiscal bind for most school districts, those in Lawrence County included.

At the same time, there has been a general reluctance to raise property taxes, because average citizens have been feeling the crunch as well. It has led to some tough decisions by school boards.

So it should come as no great surprise that the county’s school districts have said they are unwilling to further fund a struggling nursing program that’s conducted at the local vocational-technical school. It’s a consequence of economic and political realities.

The adult practical nursing program has been operating in the red for several years now, and local school districts have chafed at chipping in to cover the expense.

The Lawrence County Career and Technical Center, which provides a site for the nursing program, has no taxing power of its own. For local funds, the center is dependent on financial support from the county’s school districts. Each of these school boards has members who sit on a panel that oversees activities at the career and technical center.

So when school districts are struggling to make budgetary ends meet, they inevitably will look askance at a program they are effectively subsidizing at the expense of their own operations. It was a situation that was destined not to last.

Understandably, supporters of the nursing program object to its elimination. It’s a stance that stems from a reluctance to give up a local educational opportunity and one that provides a measure of convenience for county residents.

But certain realities cannot be ignored. With the private program lacking financial support, it was on the chopping block. In some circles, what happened this year is seen as overdue.

There remains a possibility that some other entity could come forward and provide financial support for the nursing program. But that likely will require a measure of outreach by local officials — assuming there is any interest by another organization.

The plight of the nursing program is indeed unfortunate. However, current students can finish out their studies through February.

Still, this is one of the things that happens in a world where tough decisions have to be made. In a competitive educational environment, some won’t survive. It appears this nursing program is one of them.

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