Kids deserve more than bare-bones education | SierraSun.com

Kids deserve more than bare-bones education

Phebe Bell
My Turn

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many people in our community with a broad range of perspectives about public education.

I’ve talked to parents, grandparents and people without children, homeowners and renters, longtime residents and recent transplants, senior citizens and those just old enough to vote. After listening to all of their varied perspectives, it is clear that there is a unifying belief that the children in our community deserve the strongest educational foundation we can provide them.

Measure A is a cornerstone of that foundation within the schools of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.

Measure A is the renewal of a flat parcel tax that’s been supporting the schools within the school district for the past 16 years. The measure asks for $98 per year over the next seven years, or just more than $8 per month. The funds are used to provide critical programs in our schools ” everything from P.E. to music, smaller class sizes to computer labs, college preparatory courses to vocational education. And it helps fund such essential services as libraries and librarians, counselors and nursing staff.

On March 8 we have the opportunity to renew this critical measure so that these programs can continue to exist.

So why should the citizens of our community vote yes for Measure A? For starters, a very pragmatic reason is that good schools are good for our entire community, whether or not you have children. A quality public education system attracts new businesses, entrepreneurs, and higher-skilled employees and their families to the community ” full-time residents who are vested in continuing to make our community the kind of place we all want to live.

Measure A, and the programs it provides, makes our public school system much more attractive. And a thriving community keeps property values high, our streets safe and provides a diversity of opportunities and services for our citizens.

Another compelling reason to support Measure A is to help affirm the lofty ideals embodied in public education. Our nation is built on the premise that we have an educated and involved citizenry that actively participates in the evolution and growth of our democratic society. Our country’s future depends on the education and skills we impart to our children today.

Measure A allows us to implement those ideals at a local level, where they matter most.

Why do we need an additional tax on top of what we already pay to the state? The sad truth is that over the past several decades, California has dropped from being one of the top providers of public education to one the worst in the nation. We rank near the bottom, if not dead last, in most categories measured ” from expenditure per student (35th) to students per teacher (49th) to access to instructional computers (50th)*.

How sad for a state that is considered one of the top 10 economies in the world. We need to take action locally to bridge this funding gap.

To me, one of the most powerful aspects of Measure A is that the funds are locally controlled. This tax comes straight to our school district and is overseen by a local Citizens Review Committee (CRC). This committee is comprised of school administrators, parents and community members. This is one of the few opportunities we have as taxpayers to directly effect how our money is spent.

Don’t you wonder sometimes what happens to the dollars you send to Washington, D.C., or Sacramento? With Measure A, no such question exists; you can come to the publicly held meetings, review the budget down to the last dollar, and even join the CRC yourself.

But honestly, all of these reasons pale when compared to the most important reason ” or should I say the most important 4,400-plus reasons, which is the number of children attending Tahoe Truckee Unified School District schools? Measure A provides the opportunities that make a school day more complete. Every child needs to have a strong foundation in math and reading. But our children also need to learn about sports and teamwork, how to sing and play music, and the power of science and technology.

If we don’t challenge our children’s imaginations, where will our next scientific breakthroughs come from, our next poets, writers and musicians, our next community and world leaders, our next generation of parents with strong integrity and sense of community.

Without Measure A, our schools would be bare-bones educational institutions. Our children deserve more than that; they deserve a quality education. And with your help, we can provide them with that.

I am asking you to please vote yes on Measure A on March 8.

*Information quoted from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Web site http://www.hewlett.org/Programs/Education/CA+Reform/K-12+Education.K-12+Education.htm

Phebe Bell is co-chair of the Measure A – Save our Schools Campaign.