President Bush singled out Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue for praise yesterday because the chief executive of our state called on all of the public schools in the state to use two of its snow days, Monday and Tuesday, in order to conserve diesel fuel.
This decision was communicated to the schools at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, so the kids came home for the weekend with a slip of paper announcing their great news and an unexpected two-day vacation.
There weren’t many people in Georgia singing Perdue’s praises, however, except the school children. Although the governor was no doubt trying to exert leadership and preempt shortages, when Rita failed to destroy as it was expected to, the snow days looked silly. And for parents who had to miss work because there wasn’t time to make other arrangements, the decision was maddening.
The irony is even greater when you know that Georgia’s public schools are routinely ranked #49 or #50 in the country (sometimes the state can brag: We beat Alabama!) What does it say about education priorities when sending the kids home is the first line of conservation.
Perdue gained some political capital earlier in the month when he lifted the state gasoline tax, to bring post-Katrina gasoline price back below $3 a gallon. He’s mismanaged that good will away.
This is all an exercise in controlling perceptions and panics. Two days off school or the Governor carpooling to the State House are not going to make a significant difference. The President suggested a number of similar “band-aid” measures yesterday.
We need more leadership to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, on all fossil fuels, and on one region of the country for refining oil. We need more refineries. And we need to fast track the moribund nuclear power industry.
In the meantime, just calm down. And let the kids go back to school.