Please Vote to Support Our Schools

I wrote this on a school supporter Facebook group two days ago, but I wanted it to go out to a bigger group of people, so I’m putting it on my blog as well. Yes, it’s a local issue, but this applies to anyone anywhere. The school budget vote is THIS COMING TUESDAY. There’s so much to be depressed about in the world. Each day, we see reports about everything from global warming to terrorist attacks. It can be easy to feel disheartened and powerless. There’s nothing we can do to affect such big issues, right?

I firmly believe that the best solution to the world’s problems is education. A well-informed populace knows how to tell the difference between propaganda and truth. Knows how to educate themselves on the issues before a vote. Education is light, and the more the world has of it, the brighter the future will be.

And luckily, this is an area where we can have a big impact. Because here in Maine, education starts with the community. We band together to fund the futures of our children. Each year, school boards set budgets. Each year for the past few years, these budgets have been hotly contested. Last year, the first budget that went to a vote was rejected by 137 votes. The second budget that passed squeaked by with a difference of 37 votes.

What did losing that first vote cost our students? A World Language teacher in the middle school. Ed Tech positions. A reduction in the contingency fund account. (That last one seems like it shouldn’t have much of an impact, but it does. Year after year, the school budget gets frozen halfway through the year, because new special education students have moved into the district. The school is required by law to make certain accommodations for those students, but there isn’t enough money in the contingency fund to cover it. The result is that all other budgets are frozen to ensure there’s enough to fulfill the school’s legal obligations. Contingency funds matter!)

There are 693 people in this group. I don’t know how many of us voted last year. I’d hope it was 100% of registered voters. But if not, please don’t make that mistake again. This is a situation where each and every vote really matters. And if you voted last year, reach out to friends and family in the district. Sit down with them. Talk about the importance of the budget and the value of their vote. If each of us were to persuade just one more person to vote this year than voted last year, I’m confident this budget would sail through with flying colors.

People will hear that our school board spends money frivolously. That this budget is loaded with fat. Those claims are just not true. We spend less than the average amount spent per student in our state, even with the increases to the budget this year. Our school board has set a fair budget. One that does its best to balance the needs of our students with the costs to the community.

I will be voting yes on Tuesday, and I encourage all of you to not just do the same, but shout it from the rooftops. Make sure everyone knows the day to vote. Carpool. Call friends to remind them. Be that annoying person on Facebook who won’t shut up about an issue for a week or so.

This is an issue where some annoyance is more than deserved.

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