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Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

I grew up in a true college town, home of Texas A&M University. Life revolved around A&M. The community was built up around the campus, and literally wouldn’t exist without the school. Our town was named after the train stop, College Station.

My father earned a PhD and was a college professor. Most of my friends had parents working at the university. My mother was a secretary at the school district. As a family, we were proponents of the public education system.

I had excellent teachers all through school. Many of my teachers had masters’ degrees. In my senior year, my English teacher had a PhD. She could have taught at the university, but she preferred the high school where her children were attending.

In an environment with so much emphasis on education, we studied very hard. Even with a 4.0, I barely made it into the top 10% of my class. My friends all attended college after graduation…most of them at major universities. I graduated from BYU with a BA in Communications. My goal is to return to school for an MBA.

With my background, it’s no surprise why I feel strongly about supporting our schools. Placing a high value on education is practically in my DNA.

This week I became agonizingly aware that many members of our community do not share my passion for supporting public education. To be fair, I will be more specific and state they don’t wish to support education through a tax increase. With 47% voter turnout, the levy was defeated 884 “for” and 1600 “against”.

There have been many public comments from “against” voters who have stated, “This isn’t a vote against teachers, but a vote against higher taxes.”

However, the naysayers forget that teachers wanted this levy. The teachers pleaded to the community for it. They donated towards the campaign through their teachers’ union. Many went door-to-door explaining the need for additional funding to their neighbors. Understandably, morale is low among these public servants.  As one longtime teacher painfully explained her feelings, “It’s tough to get motivated for the new school year knowing two-thirds of the community doesn’t support us.”

As I read a letter-to-the-editor in our local paper stating the “majority has spoken
 and our elected officials had better take note, I reflected on my “minority” status on this issue. I realized that it’s not unusual for me to be numbered among the minority.

I was one of 15 LDS kids in a high school of 1500 students. That’s 1%...very much a minority. In every presidential election I’ve voted in, my candidate has been elected only three times…one Democrat and two Republicans (same guy, voted for him twice). Of our two state senators, I voted for one (I’m not a tea party fan). I fight for the small, not-for-profit credit unions over the ginormous multi-billion dollar banks. The list goes on, but I won’t bore you with my personal politics.

I may often find myself on the losing end of a political battle, but I do not consider myself numbered among losers. I have found the road less traveled to have people of enduring integrity and strong morals. As I look to the men and women with whom I was aligned in supporting the levy, I am honored to belong to the minority.

I have only two regrets in becoming involved in this process. The first is getting thrust into the local social media train wreck, and the second is not winning enough votes to provide our teachers with the resources they so desperately need. Within hours of the election results, I selected myself out of the FB drama club. And the next day at 6:30 a.m., after only three hours of sleep, I was sitting with my fellow trustees of the Morgan Education Foundation…discussing our plans for fundraising events to benefit our schools. It felt great!

If you can read this, thank a teacher.

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