Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quote of the Day

"A river cuts through rock, not because of it's power, but because of it's persistence." -Jim Watkins

Friday, April 19, 2013

I’m Voting “Yes”

I’m voting in favor of the Voted Local Levy for Morgan County, Utah. The levy is a tax that will generate funds to benefit students who are educated by Morgan School District.

In the first year of the levy, the school board will assess a total of $350,000 from home, business and land owners in the county. However, the school board can lawfully assess up to $1.3 million annually from taxpayers.The board has stated it is their intent to keep the assessment at $350k, yet there is no guarantee. We simply cannot look into a crystal ball and determine every cost and expenditure for the next five years.

In multiple presentations given to community, the administration and school board have repeatedly stated the funds will be used for:
  1. Class size reduction;
  2. Remediation (special education, mathematics);
  3. Professional development; and,
  4. Extensions (ACT prep, math, science, language arts).
Upon taking a closer look at the needs of the school district, I’ve questioned if $350k is sufficient. The school board is not padding the budget with pet projects and perks. I wish our elected officials in Washington, D.C. were as mindful of tax-paying citizens as our school board.

In the community meetings and in newspaper editorials, citizens have commented that the school district should operate more like a business. Or, we must cut the fat and live within our means. While this may make sense on the surface, it’s not that simple. You cannot manage a public sector organization like a private business. There are too many federal and state legislatively-mandated issues in public education. They are two different animals.

There has also been public criticism about the compensation offered to board members…$3,000 annually plus health insurance premiums. This compensation is permitted by the state, and consistent with school districts across Utah. Consider that board members spend 20+ hours each month creating/reviewing policies, managing budgets, lobbying with elected officials and ensuring the district is in compliance with legislative requirements. If we want to attract qualified candidates to board positions, a small token of appreciation in the form of a less-than-generous compensation package is well-justified. Most people only “volunteer” for that many hours of unpaid service when they are called to do so by their religious leaders.

I have two daughters who attend Mountain Green Elementary…a 5th grader and 2nd grader. They are fortunate to have dedicated teachers who care not only for their educational experience, but also for their personal well-being. The same can be said for the principal and staff. I consider these educators and service providers as partners in raising our children. Why would I short-change people who spend seven hours each day with my girls? These educators need a teaching environment with smaller class sizes and greater resources. We need more professional services, such as speech pathologists and reading specialists. Gratefully, we have a team of community volunteers who donate hundreds of hours each week in our classrooms. But these volunteers do not replace professionals who have been educated, trained and certified to teach our children. Good teachers are the key to high test scores and graduation rates. And make no mistake, good teachers and professional service providers are in high demand. They will leave Morgan to better support their families in competing school districts with more generous compensation packages, smaller classroom sizes, and greater resources.

Families that value education choose to live in Morgan for more than the scenery and clean air…they live here for the schools. To maintain the strength of our community, we need to maintain the quality of our educational system. If test scores and graduation rates decline, the desirability of living in Morgan will decrease. The domino effect will have economic impacts far beyond the dollars assessed with the levy.

Although I am philosophically opposed to most tax increases, I would vote in the affirmative for the Voted Local Levy even if the school board stated upfront they will assess $1.3 million in the first year (although I strongly believe the school board will remain extremely conservative in their requests and govern their stewardship with integrity). As parents and responsible citizens we should look for opportunities to give our children the best educational experience possible. As a community, we have reached the point of diminishing returns for cutting corners and trimming budgets.

If you have made it to the end of this long post…congratulations. I appreciate your time and consideration. 

The Voted Local Levy will be held June 25thPlease arrange your schedules to vote in this important election.

For complete details of the Voted Local Levy, I encourage you to visit the Morgan School District website.

On a side note: This is my personal blog, and the views expressed here are my own. Your comments are welcome. However, I reserve the right to delete any comments I believe defame citizens in our community, especially administrators and school board members.