Over the past two decades...my newly adopted county...Arlington county of Virginia....got to realize it had tons of cash and lots of people to tax...so they grew spending habits at a significant rate.
Now with recession at the front door....a number of issues are popping up. They've decided that the Arlington planetarium...has to now be targeted in school budget talks. It is an absolute horror....to a bunch of folks around here.
This 40-year old panetarium is actually owned by the county...and has steady cost more money from the school budget. Last year, some folks were chatting about a $500k check for modernizing the facility and upgrading it. That money is non-existent now.
So what's left is the $250k in staff and operations budget. Something on that is going to have to be whacked. Since you can't cut heat or electricity much...I'm guessing that one employee is going to go...but that was the one topic from the local paper today that never was mentioned.
Across the state of Bama today....from the sixty-seven counties...there's not a single one with a planetarium. You can find a couple of colleges with one....but not at the high school level.
So this brings me to ponder this question...am I better off in Arlington or better off in Bama?
It's a difficult question.
First...out of the 4600 high school students there...I'm guessing at best...maybe thirty of them are getting something out of a planetarium in their home county. From the middle school? Probably less than fifty.
Second, so $250k a year goes out to help around eighty kids who might have an interest.
Third....it's true that I knew barely anything of the solar system other than the names of the planets when I graduated from a high school in 1977. Is it important that 99 kids of a hundred are properly introduced and given 300 bits of knowledge from a planetarium "knowledge base"? I have doubts. In the end....a vast number of kids are putting this data on the 'forget' list and aiming to repopulate that area with knowledge over Lady Gaga or the Boston Celtics game tonight.
Fourth and final....after these four thousand-plus kids are given this planetarium introduction...then what? Two might be destined for a space-related job in ten years....but the rest will end up working at Wal-Mart, a bank, the Marines, or ComCast Cable. Was anything of a lasting effect gained?