When I picked up the mail for the levy committee the other day, the sole piece was a cream colored Hallmark card with an out of town return address. It didn't look like our typical mail. Inside, I found a check for $100 and a hand-written note "Hope this can help further your cause!" The sender signed her name followed by "Class of '45." Wow! Sixty eight years later and this woman still has a heart for her hometown and Alma Mater. I can think of no better example that represents what is meant by "Once a Big Red, always a Big Red" than this.
During the course of our most recent campaign to pass an operating levy for Bellaire Local Schools, we have heard every excuse imaginable. But unless you come to me and say "I just can't or don't want to pay the money, I am not willing to accept any of them.
Don't tell me there was fraud. (There was none.) Don't tell me it's because they are changing the school colors. (They are not.) Don't blame it on a student essay contest or the fact we used tax dollars to have a fire truck lead a mile-long parade of hopeful students. (Those men were already on duty and were happy to provide a community service, but if it makes you feel better, we'll send them $20 to cover the cost of fuel.)
Don't tell me we shouldn't have gotten into financial trouble. (Mistakes were made. They have been corrected. How long do you intend to punish the students for the adult's mistakes?) Don't say there is no need to pass a levy because the governor is going to implement a sales tax to fund education. (There is no such plan.) Don't say it's because the superintendent is double-dipping. (He's not. He retired and collects a pension that he earned.
He went back to work like a lot of retirees do. He collects a salary FOR WHICH HE WORKS. Two separate funds. One costs us nothing.) Don't accuse the school of wasting money funding these levy campaigns. (They are not. The committee raises all its own funds.) Just don't. Enough excuses. If you don't value education and recognize the connection between good schools and the health of your community, then just say you don't want to pay the money. While I won't understand your way of thinking, at least I will know you are being truthful.
Most importantly, don't let anyone tell you this levy is going to cost you $1,200 a year. Unless your property is valued at a half-million dollars, it will not. The owner of a $50,000 home in Bellaire will only pay a little over $10 per month ($5.25 with homestead exemption.)
Our committee is stressing three things: This is your community, these are your kids, and these are your schools.
You can't deny this is your community. You live here. Maybe you don't have kids in the schools. Maybe you send yours to a private or parochial school or open-enroll them elsewhere. You still live here so the quality of your public school district has a direct effect on the health of your community. Good public schools build a stronger, better educated workforce; help attract the talented, able people we need to run our businesses and our educational, cultural and non-profit institutions; help attract and retain high quality, environmentally friendly employers offering good, well-paying jobs; reduce school dropouts, delinquency, crime, incarcerations and welfare costs; increase property values; support the local economy; and enhance the quality of life for all of us-for the entire community.
These are your kids. Not mine, you say? Yes, they belong to all of us. Despite the increase in private, charter and home schooling, almost 90% of school-aged children in the U.S. will receive a public education. It's imperative we give them the best opportunities possible.
How well-educated they are when they graduate will have a direct bearing on what and how they contribute to your community.
These are your schools. You built them. You should be proud of them. We have made the cuts necessary to operate our district in a sound and responsible fiscal manner. Now it's time to raise the level of education our students are receiving and make our district attractive to parents looking for the best educational opportunities for their children. People are moving into the valley. Many say we are on the brink of an economic boon. Please don't allow Bellaire to lose out on this opportunity for growth and improvement.
The 1946 graduate gets it. I get it. Our committee gets it. Our students get it. We have lost so much yet despite that our teachers and students continue to excel. With your support, we can offer them so much more. Funds from the levy will enhance the quality of education and provide greater opportunities by restoring lost programs. Technology, badly in need of upgrades and expansion, will be targeted. Transportation improvements and school safety will also be addressed.
Give us five years to prove we are up to the task. This is a five-year limited levy. If we fail to deliver on these goals, you will have the option to vote down a renewal. Give us a chance. Our kids are worth it. Bellaire is worth it.
Susan Badia West