I have never heard a family say, “I’m moving to that city because of its lousy schools.” On the other hand, I have heard plenty of people say, “I moved to Stillwater because it has excellent schools and it is such a nice community.”
I moved to Stillwater from California because of a job change for my husband. One of the first things I did was to Google the town and its schools and I was hooked. After almost eight years, it continues to be a great community with great schools, and I want it to stay that way. Though my family has had opportunities to move to warmer states closer to family, we choose to stay here in Stillwater so that our kids can benefit from the excellent education that District 834 provides.
Having lived in eight states in the last 22 years, I know that great communities are not easy to come by, and great schools are, sadly, far too uncommon. I have worked in school districts outside of Minnesota where fear for safety of our students’ and our staff was greater than the hope for a good education. I have also worked in prisons and have seen what a lack of education can produce. The inmates I worked with had never earned a high school diploma and many of the grown men could not read at all. The cost of a poor education on our community is much higher as adults grow up and are unable to contribute positively.
Public Schools are just that: public. They are not for-profit companies. They are here to ensure our children receive a solid education in order to keep our communities going strong. Sure, they receive state and deferral funding, but they are also struggling under heavy mandates – many unfunded – that continue to grow as revenue shrinks.
Only 3 percent of our school budgets are funded by the Federal Government. The State provides 73 percent of our school budgets and we know how well they did financially this year.
I am angry at our government, but I refuse to take my anger out on the schools. I believe in being proactive rather than reactive, and it looks as though the schools will have to cut $5 million from the budget if the levy passes and $10 million from the budget if it doesn’t. I’m willing to meet them half way and support the levy.
I gave up a career to raise my four children. I spend a lot of time volunteering at school and see firsthand how hard most of the teachers in this district work. I have had the opportunity to get to know some of our school board members and our new superintendent. I am convinced that these citizens have the best interest of our students at heart and that they are trying their best to “make it work” with the hands they have been dealt.
Most of us are too easily led by idle gossip when it comes to politics. How many of us really take the time to research just what goes in to running a school or district? You can be angry with our government — both State and Federal — and even the unions, I am, but I’m not going to take that out on our school children.
I am going to do whatever it takes to keep Stillwater, and the surrounding towns that share our District 834, “nice communities” with excellent schools and capable educators. I support the District 834 levy referendum on the ballot Nov. 8, not because I want more taxes, but because I believe in our schools and will go in with faith that our leaders will do what it takes to keep our schools strong and progressive, and keep our kids competitive with their peers both nationally and internationally.
We are not rich. We are among the shrinking middle class who frugally mind our money and look for great deals to support our family of six on one income. We can afford the levy because we know that if we don’t educate our children properly, in the long run it will cost a lot more than $7.50/per month for every $100,000 of a home’s value. (Even if you live in a million dollar home, that’s only $75.00/month…I think you can afford it too!)
The school district will be paying off some buildings in the next few years and our taxes will see a decrease. Good schools and nice communities add to your property value and support local businesses. Educated citizens keep a town cleaned up, have less crime and welcome tourist dollars to support local businesses. We all need to work together.
I encourage all citizens to educate themselves on just what the levy is all about before taking idle gossip as gospel. Ask questions, get involved with our schools, go to a school board meeting and find out where the money goes. This is not secret information, the school district will tell you what you want to know, all you have to do is ask.
On Nov. 8, I will be voting YES TO KIDS!
Kelly A. Schell