The Hempstead school district has been trying to get better. The new board of education has reacted to criticism from various state agencies and has made progress in reforming some policies and procedures. So we hate to see the district lapse into unfortunate old habits now that budget and election season is upon us.

Budgeting always has been an opaque art form in Hempstead. Alas, it does not seem much more transparent this year. To explain the financial challenges facing the district, Superintendent Susan Johnson says Hempstead absorbed 1,558 new students this year. The district did experience a significant influx last fall, but even some officials in the district question Johnson's tally as overblown.

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Her statement that as a result up to 100 positions could be axed without offering any details on who could lose their jobs sends a chilling message to any employee standing up and demanding change. Her suggestion that music and arts programs could face cuts as a result smacks of blame-game tactics and echoes similar warnings from past board leaders intended to drive wedges between the black and Latino communities. That us-versus-them battle has wracked Hempstead for years.

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It is no accident this is taking place less than two weeks before elections -- the public vote for next school year's budget and for two seats on the school board, and a separate not-to-be-overlooked race for president of the teacher's union.

Budgeting that is not transparent is not acceptable. Nor is divisiveness. Hempstead residents have some important decisions to make soon in the polling both. We hope they vote for progress.