Monday, March 30, 2009

Tax Levy

This topic is very heavy on my heart. Recent comments by others have burdened me. I lay awake last night thinking this issue over and over. I just don't understand. I'm not usually a vocal person, but I think this issue deserves the extra attention.

Trenton & I obviously do not have children. Which is why we feel that it is extra important for us to be informed on the issues, such as school board members and the tax levy, because our vote affects the lives of other people's children. I feel that if I'm to vote on electing a person to a board to make choices for other people's children, I should have as much knowledge about that person as possible. We attended the school board forum last year and this year, in order to make informed decisions. We've read the material and plan on going to the forum for the tax levy as well. I don't feel that we are particularly biased on this issue because our jobs are not affected by this levy, nor will it likely influence OUR children's education, because they will possibly travel with me to school at Scotland. I, do, however feel very strongly about providing the best possible education for all students that do attend school at Schuyler.

Yes, the enrollment numbers are going down, so in THEORY the operating cost should go down as well. However, it costs just as much to run a bus to and from the school hauling 30 kids as it does one transporting 50 kids. It's costs the same to fill that bus up with fuel either way. Could the district cut the number of buses and routes, the simple answer: yes. The following information was found in an article researching the subject further (and yes I googled it):

"Research addressing the practice of school busing and its effects on children and families is quite limited. Even though approximately 60% of public school students in the United States ride buses to and from school, there is very little research examining the impact of this experience on students' health, family life, course choices, involvement in extracurricular activities, school performance, or academic achievement (Zars, 1998). Some investigators, however, have collected anecdotal data as a way to increase public awareness of the difficulties faced by many rural riders of school buses. Two researchers in West Virginia (Spence, 2000a, 2000b; Zars, 1998) gathered information from children and parents about how children and families were being affected by long bus rides. Several of the reports provided to these researchers suggested that children who experienced long bus rides tended to participate in fewer after school activities. Children with the longest rides also reported little time to do homework, especially when compared with children who walked or had short rides. Furthermore, children who experienced the longest rides over rural roads described the physical exhaustion that resulted from those rides (Spence, 2000a; Spence, 2000b; Zars, 1998). Focusing on consequences for family life, Fox provided a more recent study of the effects of bus rides on children. The study focused on the effects of long bus rides on children's home experiences, including the amount of sleep they got, the time they had for homework, the time they had for play, and the family activities in which they were involved. In the school district studied, Fox found that length of ride did have an impact on these features of children's lives and was a consideration when families made decisions about what activities to engage in. Fox reported that students with long bus rides chose to participate in fewer in-home and out-of-home activities."

I know this information is only a small piece to a much LARGER picture. But what if this was an area that had to be cut? What if instead of running 12 buses, the district decided to cut that down to 8 routes? What if a student who is already riding a 30 minute bus route now has to ride 50 minutes? Our county expands over many areas. Unlike other neighboring counties, we only have one school in our district. Scotland County hosts: SCR-1 and Gorin. Adair county hosts: Brashear, Novinger, and K-ville R-3 to cover their counties. What if this means a parent decides that since their child didn't get off the bus until 4:15, that after homework, supper, and family time, there isn't time left for activities such as Sonlight or Youth Group? Personally, for me, a longer bus route is not the answer.

Ok, so if we can't cut costs there, let's look at another area. What about less teachers and classes per grade? Cut some salaries and you could save lots of money. If there are going to be 42 kindergartners, instead of having 3 classes of 14, let's only have 2 classes of 21. Not unmanageable, but not ideal by any means. Any number of you can Google, go to the library, whatever, and research the effects of larger class sizes on student achievement and performance. I researched this in college, and I've seen the effects. I went to a three room school house until 6th grade where there were 2 people in my class. I know the kind of attention and education I received was far more individualized than when I was sitting in a classroom of 30. To me, one of the benefits of smaller schools and homeschooling, is the reduced class size leading to more one on one attention and education by the teacher. Every teacher is expected to perform what is called differentiated instruction. This is keying in and tuning into each student's individual needs, whether they are auditory learners, visual learners, tactile learners, etc and adapting each of your lessons to meet their needs. Seems to me this certainly would be more effective with 14 students vs. 21 students in a classroom. With less students, you have less disruptions, less distractions, and in general spend more time educating the students and less time doing crowd control. Differentiated instruction is also a main reason for technological tools, such as the remote controls, in our classrooms. These tools stimulate brain function in each chlid in more ways than reading out of a simple textbook ever could. About those textbooks, without proper funding, the school district will not be able to update and upgrade the textbooks the kids are learning out of. This can greatly affect student achievement. I personally know that the teachers at Schuyler are VERY resourceful in supplementing their textbooks, but I also know that teacher's personal funds are limited as well. I'll gladly give my extra $85.39 for taxes, because I can guarantee you 90% of all the teachers at that school are spending that plus some out of their own pockets for their classrooms each and every year without reimbursement!

I'm sure I could keep going on all the issues like this. Does it cost the same to heat and cool the school if there are 300 kids enrolled as it does if there are 250 kids enrolled? Yes. Are the costs of heating and cooling rising in today's economy? Yes. I don't know about all of you, but I feel like we've been trying to be as energy efficient as we can be at our house and our utility bills are still on the rise. I can only imagine what it's like for an entire school district. Could programs be cut? Yes. Would our children be as prepared for today's world without opportunities such as college prep classes, foreign language classes, etc. No. Part of the district's funding is based on the acheivement scores of the state testing. Will our kids achieve as high without the exposure to certain areas of academics? No. Will the school district eventually possibly just maybe get some funds from the federal/state government? Possibly, but I don't know bout you, but I don't particularly have a lot of faith in our leaders in Washington right now and am not sure I trust them to have the best interest for the children of Schuyler county at heart when they sit down in there little meetings to talk about the $$$ issues in our country right now. I'm going to put a little bit more faith in the board of people elected to worry directly about the kids of Schuyler county and the administration hired to decide what is best for the kids instead of the President or some other wonderful politician.

Besides this information, what weighs heaviest on my heart is the fact that regardless of how much you want to believe it isn't happening in our county, there are SEVERAL children who come to school, simply because their parents know they are going to get 2 meals a day, they are going to be protected and kept safe for 7 hours out of the day. If this wasn't the case, there wouldn't be a line as long as there is each month for the food pantry. We wouldn't have families seeking out places like the Clothes Nook. As a school employee, I know it is my job to keep the best interest at heart for each child's mental, emotional, physical, and intellectual security and growth. As a Christian, I believe that it is my duty to give to those less fortunate than me. You can sit there and say that if they can't afford the kids, then they shouldn't have them. That's great, but what about those kids that are already here? What's more important to me is trying to break that cycle. I want the kids at Schuyler to know that there is more out there than just staying in the county and doing what their parents did if that's what they want. I don't think any of you would squelch your own child's dreams and ambitions. So why are you willing to sacrifice the dreams of other children b/c you're not willing to pay a few extra dollars? I give offering every week because God calls us to give to our church. I don't question where that money goes or what it's being used for b/c I trust that the church board and leaders are using that money in whatever way they see the greatest need. However, it would be very easy to look at the back of the bulletin and think "$3000+ dollars???" What in the world could we possibly be using that on every week? It would be easy to say, well, why don't we cut Sonlight or why do we need the technology the church has, or why do we have to run a bus for the kids? If we cut expenses, then we wouldn't have such a high weekly need. But I don't believe that is the case. I believe our church is doing the best to meet all those needs, just as I believe the school district is doing the best to meet all the needs of the children that show up on their doorstep each and every day. I just believe they could do a lot MORE if we would all give just a little bit more.

Acts 20:35b — “[T]he Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

I'm sure Trenton & I could use our 85+ dollars somewhere within the next year. But I'm going to vote YES and hope that the school district gets to use my 85+ dollars to help change lives. Even if it's just one. It all starts somewhere. Be the change you want to see.


Andrea Frederick said...

Erin~ Bless you! I'm going to go find a kleenex now.

Bree Shaw said...

WOW! that is all i can say! you did a great job and hit every nail on the head. i am with you 100% of the way. thank you!

Miss Jenn said... well said. I'm so proud of you for speaking from your heart but with your head. You didn't just get all emotional but stated the facts of the matter. Just absolutely wonderful. I wish they could read THIS at the forum tomorrow!

Amee Jones said...

This made me cry. You put it so well. These are things that I would love to say, but get too emotional, upset, or mad to do so. If you or someone could say this at the forum, I think people would have to listen. There will always be people that are against it, but if we could touch only a few hearts and minds, it would be worth it. I also want to say how much it means to me that you even care. You could easily say that it doesn't really effect you, so big deal. Thank you for loving us and the children in this district. Thank you for standing up for all of us involved. This just shows me again why you are such a dear friend. Love You!