The time has come to analyze the tragic results of the levy vote. Does the word "tragic" seem overblown, or even laughable? You judge.
Here are reasons for voting "no" given to me by a higher-education connected friend: "Paper-pushers on Elizabeth Street"; "too much money spent on sports" and "what the school board has done to the library."
These resonate with me, but I recognize that there are different viewpoints.
Likely a significant number of voters went negative because of no school prayer, teaching evolution and tolerance of homosexuality. Other voters have, without doubt, absorbed the prevailing feeling that all taxes are bad and that tax resistance constitutes a patriotic duty. In addition the local school system is somewhat trammeled by edicts from the federal government and pressure from teacher unions.
My point here is that there is no way the system can move toward my friend's (and my own) preferences without running afoul of at least one other must-be-listened-to constituency. The school board has little feedback on why folks voted no, but even if they did, there seems to be no way they could meet requirements of most of their constituencies -- and the situation worsens as the system loses funds.
They face a classic the-beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves, no-win situation, and this constitutes the first tragic element.
The second involves an important though seldom acknowledged service our schools provide: social cohesion. For some, when school consolidation occurs, the heart is ripped out of communities experiencing school closures. (But, hey, we gotta save money.) With respect to the levy, the likely new requirement of fees for those engaged in extracurricular activities -- sports and band, particularly -- will be a barrier to some talented and perhaps otherwise alienated students. Some of these, having experienced little academic success and coming from homes -- if indeed they do have homes -- where such success is not valued, will drop out. Similarly, library closures will deprive some communities of meeting space and less-well-off folks of internet access.
The third tragic element is children. All constituencies mentioned above will, no doubt, loudly assert that their priority is the children, but the situation becomes murky when we consider that not all students (especially middle school boys) are happy with the idea of classroom discipline and not all parents are interested in intellectual advancement.
Be that as it may, the loss of expected funding will certainly be a blow to some students, especially those from poorer households (who, no doubt, have a disproportionate need for "special student programs").
Which programs will get the ax? Here are some candidates (presented in the order I deem most likely to be cut:
- Credit recovery / graduation coaching, in which I note one student exploring quantum mechanics on his computer though, admittedly, another was looking at dirt bikes.
- Itinerant music, in which I have enjoyed playing my harmonicas and praising those students learning music of any kind.
- Itinerant gifted, in which I have been delighted to monitor student teams practicing for an intellectual quiz-show competition.
But times change. When I began substitute teaching, my yearly trainings were mainly on how to use a stepladder and don't-have-sex-with-the-kids. This last year it's double down on don't-have-sex and two additions: how to deal with homeless students and how to spot pre-suicidal behavior.
Pete Thaw, a school board member, is reported to have said "they [voters] have identified the man behind the screen like the Wizard of Oz ... this was a wise decision ... God bless them."
I have to wonder what these folks see when they envision a "man behind a screen" and what god -- Moloch? -- is invoked for the blessing of such an ungenerous impulse.Palmer, of Charleston, is a retired professor.