Commentary: As struggling farmers did, let’s back educationIt’s apparent that a portion of the citizenry doesn’t understand the issues involved in and the importance of the school referendum.
By: David J. Grove, Red Wing, The Republican Eagle
It’s apparent that a portion of the citizenry doesn’t understand the issues involved in and the importance of the school referendum.
Schools are government funded. They are not businesses. They generally cannot bring in income. They rely on funding from taxes, whether they are federal, state, or local property taxes. Governmental agencies determine these funding levels.
In the last few years, school funding has not kept up with the cost of inflation. The state has not provided the funding necessary to help schools keep pace with the rising cost of fuel, heating and cooling, salaries, health care, food, etc.
This caused budget deficits.
Red Wing School District faces such a deficit not because of changed spending habits, but because of rising costs and decreased funding.
Indeed, the district been proactive, cutting over $1 million in the last two years while trying desperately to keep opportunities for students to participate in extra-curricular activities and, more importantly, receive a quality of education.
I am perplexed by those who insist the school “live within its means like everyone else has to do.”
Cuts upon cuts
Stop the extravagant spending? The district has been cutting spending not increasing it.
When funding decreases while costs increase, how else can the school make up the difference besides a referendum? Many of us can take a second job to help with the budget squeeze. The school cannot.
Our school has taken cuts to the point where, as Board Member Stephen O’ Keefe stated, it has reached “critical mass.” More cuts will push the school past its breaking point and profoundly affect students’ education.
A failed referendum could result in the loss of the most or all athletics and likely all other extra-curricular activities. It will result in the loss of teachers, since everything else that can be cut has been cut.
This would result in larger class sizes — some classes already have 50 students — and lead to lower achievement levels. Class sizes in Red Wing are significantly higher than in surrounding communities. Further increases in class sizes cannot lead to positive results.
The state recently released data regarding Annual Yearly Progress. Red Wing fell short in several areas. I suggest that there are not enough staff to give students in the under-achieving areas the attention necessary to achieve goals set by state and federal governments.
I also suggest that some of these standards are unreasonable; that is another topic.
Special education is one area where Red Wing has failed to meet proficiency standards. This department is already short staffed and the board cut another $100,000 for the coming year. The remaining staff cannot address the deficiencies due to excessive caseloads and the unbelievable paperwork that special education teachers must complete.
This area is supposed to receive funding from both the federal and state governments, but the funding has come in reduced amounts or not at all. Funding deficiencies then fall upon local taxpayers.
I submit that it is Red Wing citizens’s responsibility to alleviate a portion of these deficiencies and provide its children with a proper education, as our parents provided for us.
I attended school in the 1980s in northeastern Iowa, an area deeply affected by the farm crisis. Times were tough as they are now. People did not have extra money, and many family farms were foreclosed upon.
Yet whenever the schools held a referendum to provide a quality education for its children, the people stepped up and paid the money. Every referendum passed by a huge majority.
I believe that this is because the people understood the value and importance of a quality education, and that they were the ones that were providing it.
They paid the additional taxes to cover the ever-increasing costs of running a school, as their parents did before them.
They did it because they knew that their children and the children of others could not lead the community forward without being educated. They had foresight to understand that schools are an investment, and are a necessary investment in the future of the city, the state and the country.
Have some pride
I am disappointed in those unwilling to accept this obligation, whatever the reason may be. I ask them to consider what the Red Wing schools will be like if the referendum fails. Will the school be a drawing point for the community? I think not.
In fact, if the referendum fails, I will open-enroll my children in a school somewhere else. I do not want my children to go to school where the people do not care enough about education to maintain it. I want to be able to have more pride in my school than that. I want to have more pride in my town than that.
I will vote yes and yes Sept. 9 not only because I feel that I have an obligation to, but because I want to. I encourage others to do the same.