Monday, April 11, 2005

Levy and Conscience

I'm torn. We all realize that our school are in serious trouble. There are teachers being let go, administrators being forced out because of lack of pay, school field trips have been cancelled because of the low funding of the schools.

We all want to blame someone for our troubles.

Some blame the state, who mandated erecting buildings that are outrageously expensive to maintain. Some blame the school board, who, to some degree, went along with the state to build these buildings, and have misappropriated funds in the past. Some blame those without children or have had their children already graduate the schools, because they don't care anymore and won't vote for a new levy.

I can understand the frustration of the people who care about the school system (I'm one of them). Schools play a vital role in our society, and they can work either to the positive or to the negative. A school system with effective teachers, knowledgable administrators, and most important, involved parents creates a great opportunity for growth in the community. Children in such a situation are encouraged to learn and shown the importance of it everywhere they turn. On the other hand, ineffective teachers, turnover in administration, and apathetic parents create cynicism within children. They see that no one thinks its all that impotant that they learn anything, just that they get through it all and get out of town when its all over. It leads to a dead-end community.

Consider the reasons why people are voting against levies. First, how does my vote against a levy "get back" at the state who mandated these buildings? Does our state government say, "Boy, they really got us, we funded those buildings for them, and now they won't pay for them. There's egg on our face now." The majority of our state representatives don't even know where Windham is, much less care about its upkeep.

Second, certainly the school board could have made better decisions in certain areas over the last five years. Other school districts that have fallen on hard times immediately cut funding to extra-curricular programs, such as athletic events, making them "pay to play". Most of those school districts forded their way through those hard times within a couple of years, rather than what may be a protracted struggle here in our district. There is an attitude of "cutting where it doesn't hurt" that should actually be "cutting where it hurts, but doesn't impact academics". I love baseball. Its my favorite sport and I played it (well, at least the bench) when I was in High School. Sports are not why we send our children to school. They are there to learn the tools that will guide them through life. Sports can be a part of that, but it is primarily done in the classroom.

Also, if we disagree with what the school board does, there's a built-in checks and balances system called Election Day. If I don't like what one, two, or the entire board does, I can vote against them in the next election and elect someone to the office that I think would be a better decisionmaker. If they're making bad decisions, convince other people and replace them when you get the chance. It does not make sense to vote against a levy, when in six months, you may have an entirely new School Board. What makes more sense is to vote for a levy, so that the new board that is voted in next time around has the flexibility to make the right decisions with the funding of the schools, and is not scrambling to clean up any mess that was left behind by the previous administration.

The third reason that some people vote against the levy is understandable to a degree. The attitude that has been developed in recent years is "I used the system, and paid for it at the time, now I don't use it, so I don't need to pay for it." It would seem that when my children graduate from high school, I have no need for the school system anymore. But that is not the case. As we noticed above, an effective school system is a beneficial thing to a community. Did you know that one of the factors in predicting future crime rates in a community is to look at the literacy rate of third grade children? If there is a low literacy rate, statistics show that the future crime trend is higher - the higher literacy rate, the lower the crime rate. There is a greater reason to vote for a levy than just to get my own children to learn. We have the ability to impact the future of Windham in voting for the levy.

We support this levy, and encourage people to get involved in the process of deciding how the finances are put to use. Voice your opinion at School Board meetings. Elect an effective School Board when you get the opportunity. The Board is accountable for every decision that they make, and they are accountable to you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is very well written. You should send it to the Record Courier, Villager, and Tribune.