I preface these remarks noting that except for my son's three-month stint in a public grade school, my children have always gone to private schools. I have now been paying 32 years for educating others' children. I have never appreciated it.
Some years back the Jefferson City School District began a campaign to raise public teachers' salaries.
An enthusiast came to our Rotary meeting and provided a very cogent rational presentation on why this was appropriate. He provided data on local salaries compared to national, state and nearby school districts. He noted the problems associated with the "low" salaries and the quantifiable benefits. He convinced me, and apparently others. The teachers got their pay raise.
I have been waiting for a similar rational argument supporting the mega high school. Will it improve test scores? Will it reduce truancy? Will it improve graduation rates and success for college entrants? In what ways will it make our graduates better hires for business? And among all the verbiage and wonderful aspirations these questions have not been answered.
So when an officer of the school board gave a presentation locally in support of the higher taxes, I expected rational answers. Instead, as reported in the News Tribune, the crux of his presentation was "excite the voters' emotions, that's what needed." Excuse me?
He suggested reminding voters of (for example) the kid that has to walk three miles to school because he lives beyond the school route; or noting what one student said in his district "it's the price of one cheeseburger per week."
Taking his second suggestion first; to the homeowner, the cost of this enterprise will be much greater than a cheeseburger per week. Even at that incorrect figure, with soda and tax, over 52 weeks per year, that adds up, and over 10 years, you're looking at two thousand dollars. What exactly would be the gain? The average homeowner in Jefferson City already pays $8,000 every year in city and county taxes. This is not chump change.
As to the second "emotional appeal," perhaps if more students walked or rode a bicycle to school they would be able to pass the Army physical upon graduation. The voucher system is gaining momentum, and it works. It is based on competition and centralization minimizes competition. Two, three, four schools; private schools. Let them compete for students, support, private and public monies.