WHAT’S THE VALUE OF HALF A PENNY?
by Vicki Hinze
No one wants to pay more in taxes. Especially those who are clinging to jobs by a thread, whose economy is tourist-based and relies heavily on beaches put out of commission for most of the season by an oil spill. Families everywhere are struggling in an economy made sick by a Congress who hasn’t learned when the purse is empty stop spending money. When all these events conspire simultaneously, it becomes incredibly easy to fill that “NO” circle on the ballot and vote against a half-penny sales surtax for schools.
That’s what happened in Okaloosa County yesterday. An amazing 43.86% took a leap of faith and voted Yes. But 56.14%, no doubt many out of sheer frustration at Washington antics, filled in that “NO.”
And today we hear of the real consequences of that action in schools across the county, including one–Edge Elementary School in Niceville, Florida.
Edge isn’t a school in an affluent area, but it has long been recognized for teachers and administrators who care and strive to provide excellence for its students. It’s done well and the work of many there favorably impact the lives of the children it serves with limited resources.
Today, I’m hearing that if Edge doesn’t raise $40,000.00 by this Friday, it will have no choice but to make cuts. Some things that likely will go are music, art, physical education and guidance counseling. More cuts could be required.
That half-penny has a powerful impact, doesn’t it? And this is just at one school. I no longer have children in the school system, but I do have a granddaughter, and the quality of her education will suffer a direct impact. Your’s will too.
If I thought for a second that the principal or board was lavish and/or wasteful, I wouldn’t say a word. But they’ve proven prudent, cautious, careful with their spending. We all must live within a budget. Yet most of us aren’t hampered by outside rules and regulations like class size limits that place additional requirements on us. Schools have many such rules and regulations.
We parents wanted class size limits. More attention to each student, we thought. But the reality is having one or two additional students requires an additional teacher be hired. If that’s the case with two grades or three, then two or three additional teachers are required. That costs money. So we want limits, we want the attention for our kids, we want those extra teachers. But we don’t want to pay for them.
Contrary to the opinions of some, ours isn’t an entitlement society. We have the privilege of public schools to educate our children. With that privilege comes the responsibility to fund them. One cannot exist without the other and avoid very real consequences to the children the schools are created to educate–our children.
We hear a lot about education during election cycles. We hear a lot about it when it comes time to vote on initiatives such as the lottery and stimulus bills. But what we see is a half-cent sales surtax fails and our children lose. In this case, likely art and music and physical education and guidance counseling.
We fill that NO box, venting frustration. Pangs of power–this I can control. I have a voice. I can do something–but we ignore the other side of that internal conversation. We choose not to look beyond that momentary headiness of putting our foot down and see the impact on those behind it getting stomped.
If we did look, what we would see are the faces of our children. The ones who will forfeit art, music, PE and the benefits of guidance counseling.
Some will read this and shrug it off. No one likes paying taxes–especially now.
Some who didn’t bother to vote will wish they had.
Some will look away so they can avoid tugs on their consciences.
And some will weep at the lost opportunity to best serve our kids.
The educators who often spend their own money to benefit their students.
The kids who gain much from these programs and lose most by their absence.
The mothers and fathers and grandparents who wish they had $40,000.00 so they could write Edge Elementary a check and keep those programs and counseling intact.
Maybe–just maybe–there is one person who does have the money and will do just that. Hopefully before Friday. Because Friday is when time runs out for these programs for the kids.
And that’s the value of a half-penny.▲