Last week, I finished my opinion piece by offering to take up the cause of those people who are against the school levies (if they could convince me). About a third of the voters vote against them, and I wanted to know why. Here are their top reasons.
• Fear of speaking out
Well, the biggest reason we don’t hear from the minority seems to be an climate of fear. No one seems to know why this climate exists, and it’s not like teachers and parents are rollin’ thru tha hood with their gats hustlin’ for paper (ask your kids what this means).
Instead, the weapons of choice are heavy doses of guilt. In a way, they’re right. We do need to provide the right amount of funding to make sure these kids get a good education. We shouldn’t use the financial rewards from our free education to upgrade to the 54-inch flat screen, just because the 40 inch seems kind of small from this end of the couch.
However, the strategy of using guilt as a heavy club against any opposition may eventually backfire. It’s a fine line to walk between making a strong argument and appearing arrogant with a sense of entitlement. If somebody feels like there’s no point in bringing up their concerns, they’ll simply vote no.
• Concerns about how the money is spent
Most of the responders are concerned about what the technology dollars will be spent on. The district put a couple of helpful papers out on the topic, but they weren’t informative enough to put the naysayers at ease.
My suggestion? Kill us with information overload. Maybe a “Technology Open House” on YouTube that shows everyone what’s being replaced, what’s being purchased new and why. Showcasing our school’s technological prowess with a four-page flyer and two PDF files might have impressed me in 1995, but not today.
I won’t hold it against them, though. Public relations and marketing aren’t usually taught in high schools, and those fields evolve too quickly to wait for a textbook that’s useful.
At some point, we have to trust our public employees to make purchasing decisions that are in our best interests, while providing enough oversight to make sure it isn’t wasteful. Still concerned? Start attending school board meetings.
• The selling of a levy
Half of the responders were concerned that the technology levy was originally sold as a replacement levy, and is now being turned into a permanent one. They feel slightly deceived, and the case hasn’t yet been made for how important a technology-oriented education is today.
Naysayers, I think you give the levy backers too much credit by considering them master manipulators. They’re smart people, but not that clever. More likely, the game changed between this levy and the last one, and it’s just easier to keep it going rather than build a public case for changing the way education is done.
Maybe the state should consider technology as part of the basic education standards (and pay for it, too), but let’s not kid ourselves. You’ll pay anyway. At least if it’s a local levy, you can show up at a school board meeting and talk to the people making decisions. If the state funded it, more of that money would go east of the mountains, and your influence would be reduced to zero.
My biggest gripe is, we’re not having a real conversation about these levies. The minority doesn’t feel that they can express their concerns without a public shaming, so they’re always going to vote no. So, every election we go through the same cycle; the same arguments.
I think both sides can agree that our kids need the best education we can afford to provide. We shouldn’t use our kids as human shields to make the case for levies, and we also shouldn’t hold their education hostage by withholding a good funding source. This isn’t the reality, but it’s how each side perceives the other.
No-voters, I wasn’t completely convinced. Please consider a yes vote this year, and let’s work on your concerns together.