Events have been occurring over the past few weeks within the Troy Area School District that neatly underscores what I have spoken about before - namely that everyone admires austerity, but nobody likes to practice it.

The board recently voted to eliminate the district's driver's education program, which is estimated to save the district about $100,000. Before the board took its course of action, driver's education teacher Timothy McAninch urged the program not be eliminated; explaining that it provides an important service to the district's students.

Before I continue, I'm going admit that I myself benefitted from the driver's education course offered by my school district many years ago -more than I like to count! I was taught by a teacher who provided the same invaluable instruction as Mr. McAninch has to hundreds of students in Troy. As a result of the certification I received in my high school driver's ed class, getting my license was pretty much a breeze, and I also got a 10 percent discount on my insurance - which was nice, particularly during my college years when money was pretty tight. The alternative would have been that my dad would have taught me how to drive; and even today I shudder at the thought of such a prospect. I love my dad dearly, but when it comes to teaching, patient he is not; and I can just hear some of the things he would have been saying as he attempted to impart the wisdom of operating a vehicle to me.

So, I'm completely sympathetic with Mr. McAninch's arguments and agree that the elimination of the driver's education program is a sad loss to the Troy Area School District. However, I am also in complete agreement with the Troy School Board on the matter; because even though the driver's education program provides an important service to the students, it's even more important that the district meet its financial obligations on a regular basis. And the options available to the district seem to be shrinking each year.

Within every public school district are many programs mandated by state law that cannot be cut or eliminated. As a result, a school board is powerless to look to them in an attempt to balance its budget. Driver's education is unfortunately not one of those programs, and so as part of an effort to save money and meet the budget, the board has voted to eliminate the program. This has not sat well with a number of district residents, and I understand why. However, the fact remains that the board took an option available to them as a way of keeping the books balanced.

No doubt there are those who will insist that there are other programs the district could have cut or eliminated to save the driver's education program. To which I reply: "Fine, which ones?" Because every program suggested will provide benefits to someone, and who will no doubt be just as upset with the prospect and just as adamant that said program provides an invaluable service within the district.

Some people have suggested sports be cut back or eliminated - saying that the district spends too much on them and they are unnecessary. Ignoring the number of irate parents and students such a action would generate, the contention that schools spend too much money on sports is a popular misconception by people who don't study the school budget too closely. The fact is the amount of money most school districts spend on sports is minimal at best and most districts would not see a significant savings in money even if every sport were eliminated.

I commend the Troy School Board for having the courage to take such a course of action, even though its members knew it wasn't going to be a popular decision, as well as realizing that the driver's education program is indeed a valuable service. But sometimes elected officials must make a hard decision even when its unpopular, because that is the best - and sometimes only - course of action they can take.

C.J. Marshall is a writer and columnist for The Daily Review. He can be reached at; or (570) 265-1630.