Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

The recent discovery that employees at two Western Oregon school

districts had tossed usable classroom supplies and textbooks into

Dumpsters is no great scandal.

What it is is awfully stupid.

The sort of ill-conceived stunt that leads reasonable people to

wonder whether all government workers treat all tax dollars as badly as

they did those bottles of glue and books.

The answer, of course, is no.

More than half of those dollars, after all, go directly to the

workers as wages, retirement, health insurance and other benefits. We

can safely presume those dollars are not discarded.

Nonetheless, publicity about the two school incidents has prompted

the predictable complaint that school officials have no legitimate

reason to whine about budget shortfalls.

If they'd just take better care of their texts, the critics argue, maybe we wouldn't need to hack days off the academic calendar or, as the Portland School District is considering, to excise P.E. classes from elementary and middle schools.

The truth, though, is that saving a couple Dumpsters worth of books and crayons isn't going to balance any budgets.

And in the case of the crayons and other supplies, the money might have come from parents rather than school budgets.

Regardless, we're certainly not offended by the vehemence directed against the wastrels responsible for the fiascos at the Gresham and Woodburn school districts.

We hope, though, that these media-friendly spectacles don't distract citizens from the real problem.

Government budget woes have much to do with the aforementioned salary and benefits packages. Nor is this merely a school district dilemma.

Oregon state government, which supplies more than half of the money to schools, is an especially egregious example, with its reluctance to require most of the state's 50,000 workers to pay even a penny of their health insurance premiums.

That - and not at the bottom of a trash bin - is where the real money lies.