Good Communities Need Good Schools

A bit of a local digression today, but it’s a local issue that no doubt touches on situations elsewhere as well. A few weeks ago, voters in my school district shot down the proposed budget for the upcoming school year. It caught me by surprise. I think I do a fairly good job keeping an ear out for upcoming problems, and I hadn’t known the school budget was in the crosshairs for anyone this year. In the past, when there’s a big budget brouhaha (BBB), it’s typically plastered all over Facebook or the local online paper, and I get involved.

No BBB this time, which means it took me by surprise. I didn’t vote. And so I’m partly to blame for the budget not passing.

Because it should have passed. Make no bones about it. I know and respect a lot of the members of the school board, and they worked their tails off on that thing. (Seriously. None of them have any tails at all. No horns either, for that matter.) The schools in Maine are in a tight spot. They’re constantly receiving less funding from the state, and costs for providing a quality education are only going up. This wasn’t a huge increase in the budget.

But some locals don’t see it that way. They only look at the bottom line of how much property tax they pay, and they get angry. They want taxes to stay level or go down. They don’t have kids in the school district. When they went to school, all they needed was a chalkboard and an eraser. Why does school have to be so expensive now? Clearly, the school board isn’t doing its job.

I hear those arguments, and it takes a fair bit of willpower not to lose my cool. The same arguments are used to try and slash public library budgets, or try to do away with the university here in town. It’s pennywise and pound foolish.

Good communities need good schools, plain and simple.

When people are moving to an area, they look at the school district. They want to know their children are going to be taken care of and well educated, because that’s key to a successful future. If they see a school district that’s poorly rated or underfunded, they might well look elsewhere to move. “Fine,” the naysayers say. “We didn’t want them here anyway. Keep the out of towners out of town.”

Some people just can’t be reasoned with. You lose new people coming in, you lose taxes coming in. You lose people who are ready to shop at local businesses. You lose your community.

The saddest thing about all of this is that the only real argument we should have to make is that our children need a good education, and that costs money. Not tons of money, but money. Our school district spends 12% less than the average school district in Maine.

As a result of the vote, the school board has now eliminated at least $200,000 from the budget, it looks like, and people are clamoring for more. “At least a million,” is the number I keep hearing bandied about. That’s money that our students won’t be getting. Opportunities my children will be missing out on. My hope is this is a wake up call to all reasonable-minded people in the district. I know it is for me. We need to get out there and vote. Every. Single. Year. Because a few people shouldn’t control the future of our communities. If the majority votes against it, so be it. At least we’ll know where we stand. But I have to believe that in this case, the majority just stayed home and assumed everything was fine.

We can’t do that. Make sure to get out and vote at the end of next month. If you need any more reason, just read over some of the comments on that local article I linked to in the last paragraph. If that isn’t enough for you, try the comments on this article or this article. I’m not arguing that people who aren’t supporting the increase are ignorant or uneducated, but I’m definitely arguing that they’re short sighted.

Comments welcome. Keep them civil if they come in, however.

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