Friday, June 10, 2011

When School Boards Attack

On June 1st, my little town of Robbinston had an important school board meeting.  Word was, they were going to close our grade school, which currently educates our K-8 kids.  Thankfully, that potential tragedy was averted, but it took 3 hours of debate and citizen outrage before the decision was finally made to keep the school running and begin budgeting.

After the meeting, I wrote the following letter that was published by local papers:

The latest Robbinston School Board meeting was certainly spirited.  Though, that's bound to happen when the school is threatened with closure.  I'm glad to say we avoided that unsightly circumstance, and that our little school will continue to give our kids a quality education in the coming year.

The harsh reality is, Robbinston property taxes will be going up, but this is not because our School Board decided to keep the school open.  In fact, it would actually cost several thousand dollars more in tuition to send our kids to another school, not to mention the cost of either maintaining or bulldozing the existing school building after we closed it.  The State mandated us to raise more money for the school this year (courtesy of School District Consolidation).  So, we're looking at a 7 mill property tax increase, no matter what.

The big question many of you may have is, if it'll cost less to keep the school open, why was the School Board proposing that we close it?  Well, they technically weren't.  They wanted to put it out to referendum, and let the voters decide, though that was a very risky thing considering the common perception that closing the school would somehow save money.  It wouldn't, and we'd be throwing away our local control if we ever did abolish our school.

We elected our School Board to make tough decisions, and that is what they did.  While they came into the meeting poised to send the closure referendum out to the voters, they heard the cry of the people in attendance, saw reason, and did their jobs.  The board eventually voted 2-1 to keep the school running and begin the next year's budget. 

When it comes down to it, the School Board had no desire to close our school.  Rather, they decided to use the threat of closure as a terror tactic, to get people's attention.  The board wanted to educate the voters about the ultimate costs involved with educating our children, and let them know they'll be paying either way.

Putting school closure on the ballot would have been a risky gamble, and I'm glad they recanted from it.  The Robbinston Grade School really is the core of our community, one of the last remaining pieces of infrastructure our town has.  To discard it would be foolhardy and devastating to the future of our community.

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