Let's say a school has 100 teachers each with 30 students in a classroom. Reduce the faculty by 20 percent, a distinct possibility considering the reality of the state budget, and each class has at least 37.

Or say that 20 teach subjects such as languages or the arts not considered part of the core. Eliminate those positions and students formerly exposed to something beyond the three Rs go to study hall instead.

Either approach has a detrimental effect on students both immediate and lasting because nobody believes New York will recover for many years.

But say that the school took a different approach, a radical one nobody seems to be talking about. Say those 100 teachers all made $100,000 a year but took a 20-percent salary cut, down to $80,000. By accepting less, teachers would help each other by allowing more of their colleagues to keep their jobs. They also would help students if class size and curriculum could remain the same.

Who makes that much? You might be surprised. In some larger districts, including poorer districts such as Newburgh and richer ones such as Monroe-Woodbury, you will find that as you count up the number of teachers making that much and sometimes a significant amount more, you get to 100 and keep on going.

Is it fair to expect teachers to earn less? That depends on how you look at it.

In New York hundreds of thousands are earning nothing these days and they do not know when they will be going back to work. Hundreds of thousands more hold jobs that pay the minimum wage of $15 an hour at best, often without benefits, adding up to an annual paycheck of $31,200.

All those people pay taxes and the largest percentage of those taxes goes to fund education. For decades, New York has led the nation in the money it allocates per pupil, routinely spending about double the national average. That figure is driven, in turn, not by the bureaucracy or state mandates but by the amount we pay our teachers who routinely earn about double the national average in wages, benefits and in retirement.

So at a time when millions are sacrificing their livelihood and part of their future with no say in the matter and no good options, it is not unthinkable to ask if teachers and their powerful unions would consider the opportunity to make a difference that will relieve the burden that taxpayers can no longer afford, that the state can no longer supplement and that the federal government has no interest in alleviating.

Those who wonder about the lottery and its contribution need to realize that the money from that source that was promised to go to education is already included. There is no pool of hidden money. There is no more available from the state or federal governments. The state caps property tax increases at 2 percent or less and schools will be lucky to get support for minimum budgets this year.

There is no doubt that school budgets will have to shrink. The only question is who has to sacrifice — students or teachers?