A couple weeks ago, we were driving pass the local high school and Jules noticed people out on the sidewalk waving signs. She tried to read it, but then we passed by and she hadn't caught all the words. "What are those people waving?"
"Vote yes for schools," I told her.
And then I explained that we were voting on whether or not we should give Daddy's school more money.
"I vote no," she said.
"Because we'll give money to the school but then they'll just give it right back to Daddy. It's just easier if we keep it in the first place."
I briefly basked in the fabulousness of my pragmatic daughter...
...and then gave her a tiny civics lesson on how taxes work. (She ended up agreeing that we should vote yes, but said maybe we could just keep our money so the school wouldn't have to worry about giving it back to us. I told her that was a very sensible idea.)
Despite the people waving signs and all the many roads dotted with Yes For Schools signs, the levy failed.
And despite the people waving signs and all the many roads dotted with Yes For Schools signs, I completely forgot that this was something I should be voting on. I'm sure I got my ballot in the mail, but I can't for the life of me find it.
(Sidenote: Ballots in the mail--while very convenient--are also very understated and easily forgotten for someone like me who rarely ever sends actual mail. Or remembers deadlines. That's why all my bills are auto-pay because I cannot remember to actually pay them. And, yes, I know that there are tips and tricks for remembering this sort of thing, but I don't care because I am stuck in my ways and will not be convinced to readjust my ways. Sorry about getting all boldy there, but it's a pet peeve of mine when people tell me how dangerous it is for auto-pay because yada yada yada you may end up bankrupt. Or something. If I didn't do auto-pay I would still end up bankrupt...from all the late fees. The end.)
Mail in ballots and auto pay ASIDE...
The levy failed.
I might not know, and perhaps not care much, if Jason hadn't told me that (1) the levy makes up 20% of the district's operating budget (because the state dramatically slashed school funding) and (2) it's a real possibility the district will have to declare bankruptcy if the levy doesn't pass when it comes before the voters again in April. Bankruptcy means another school district would take over, which would mean all the teachers would be fired and then rehired as needed.
Jason told me these two things last night as I stood in the kitchen cooking dinner. I admit it, I laughed in disbelief. And I laughed in belief too.
I can't imagine another local school district coming in and then not hiring back most of the teachers who are already at the school. Sure, they wouldn't hire everybody back, but I feel pretty confident that they would hire Jason. Because he's an awesome teacher.
But his awesomeness aside, he might not get hired back.
And then...I don't know what then. He starts looking for a job, I guess.
I'm not worried about it because I don't have the energy to spend on something that I feel 90% sure won't happen.
I'm not really sure what the chances are of the levy passing in April. We still have a sizable population that continues to struggle with the effects of the recession, so their personal budgets are limited. We also have a significant population of folks who strongly oppose taxes of any kind--education, library, fire department, you name it they don't want to pay for it--and lots of families who homeschool or send their kids to private school. Heck, we send our girls to the local private school, so aside from Jason's job we don't have a lot of personal incentive to vote for the levy because of the increase we'll see on our property taxes. I'm pretty sure most of the people I see on a daily basis won't vote yes in April because...well, there are lots of reasons, and I'm not going to presume to know what their reasons are.
But even if Jason wasn't working in the local school district, even if he was working in another school district, I'd still vote yes. I'd vote yes because my cousin's kids are in the school district. I'd vote yes because people in our church work for the school district. And I'd vote yes because I think public education is worth spending money on. I think having a good education is one of the best things you can give to a population. And for all the people who say, "School districts should just manage their money better," I say, look at the budget and figure out where the cuts should be made. I know that our school district had an outside auditor look over their budget and determine that they were making the best use of their resources as they possibly could. I can't speak to other schools, but I can speak for ours.
For legal reasons, lots of budget items can't be cut--special ed or fewer bus stops on roads that don't have sidewalks, for example. No, the cuts would be made in arts funding, in teacher training, in security, and programs designed to help at-risk kids. The class sizes would get bigger, the school year would get shorter, and the students wouldn't get the education they deserve. People complain that today's youth lack critical thinking skills, but the solution isn't defunding education.
Sure, I'm biased on education. Jason and I are both teachers.
But I'm biased on education because I think it's important, and I think it's something a community should take pride in.
It's true, I'm not a poster child for public education. In my K-graduate school years, I attended two years at the local public high school and did my post-grad work at a state university. Otherwise, I'm a product of Christian education, for which I am grateful.
Regardless of that, Sydney and Jules and Addie and I will be waving our Vote Yes for Schools signs in April. We'll stand on the sidewalk, smile and wave.
Maybe cuteness will count for something.
And hopefully we won't have to think much about any of this after April.