For the first time in 42 years, the voters in my school district are being asked to vote on a $76 million bond for the public schools. I’ve hesitated blogging about this, because I’m a teacher and its passage or failure will impact my daily life. But I’m guessing most votes have been cast, as they are due by 5 p.m. tomorrow, so here are my thoughts, late as they might be.
As I’ve drafted and drafted and drafted what I could have possibly added to the white noise of “for” and “against,” I’ve boiled it down to these thoughts:
- Please do not hold present leaders accountable for the decisions of past leaders. Yes, oversight is important. Yes, fiscal responsibility is important. But please understand that every year for the past several, we have been cutting. Myself and most extra-curricular sponsors took pay cuts. We are limited in our copy budget. We no longer provide tissues for students–I typically spend $40 a year on tissues because students don’t bring boxes to share, as is so common in the elementary schools. Computers that should’ve been replaced years ago are limping along. Please don’t think we’ve been living high on the hog the past five years. Quite the opposite.
- Weigh the cost of the bond against the following factors:
- Property valuations possibly falling as families move to Papillion, Westside, Millard, Elkhorn–incidentally, all districts that have passed more than one bond in the past 42 years.
- A loss of quality teachers who, despite love of career and children, can no longer justify teaching in a district without needed resources or safety concerns addressed.
- Private school tuition costs for when the public schools can no longer support the students they way parents have grown accustomed to.
I think one of the negative repercussions of the Internet is that we, as a society, increasingly expect quality content for free. We complain about newspaper paywalls or Netflix price increases because we are somehow entitled to everything. But we aren’t. And though John Dewey advocated for “free” public education for all, it’s never really been free. Like 911 services, road improvements and libraries, schools have always had a price.
Communities that balk at the price tag face dire consequences.
For a student perspective on school funding, here’s the opinion of the editorial board of the newspaper I advise.