On Thursday, the Salem Board of Education voted to try again for an operating referendum. Operating referenda for the district failed in June 2008, September 2008 and February of 2009. The September referendum lost by a fairly large margin, but the June and February votes were 269 to 235 and 654 to 694.
Those working for the referenda must feel like Sisyphus forever rolling the stone up the hill, but never getting to the top, or Tantalus, with sustenance always just out of reach. Unlike those mythological figures, the school supporters and the children of Salem have done nothing to deserve their cruel fate.
Their decision to go to referenda again indicates that they are unwilling to accept the devastating cuts in store for their schools. I can’t blame them.
Whether this one passes or not, an inordinate amount of time and energy will have been spent trying to secure adequate funding for the district. This is time that should have been spent educating the students. That’s what happens when you live in a state with a broken system for funding education. Sign on with the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools and the School Finance Network to work to fix this.
Back to Salem. Advocates continue to make a strong case, reminding all that strong schools are essential for healthy communities.
Proponents of the board have said that increase is needed to save programs and staff, to provide opportunities for children, and ultimately to protect property values in the community. If the school system goes into decline, they argue, the whole community will ultimately be affected.
“I’m scared too, we took a huge pay cut in my family. My wife was out of work,” said Scottie Washington. But he believes families will leave the community and home values will decline if programs are cut. “If this referendum doesn’t pass this is going to be a ghost town,” he said.
The ask this time will be for a three-year non recurring referendum at $1.16 million a year. The vote will be at a special election on April 28. This looks like the same measure that was voted down in February.
I haven’t seen a new presentation of potential cuts yes, but the ones form the earlier campaign are probably still in play.
There is much more Salem referendum related material here, including the slideshow embedded below.
It should be noted that the major issue in Salem is and has been class size. Smaller class sizes is one of the “best practices” that almost everyone agrees helps all children learn and almost every agrees is particularly important for children from poor or difficult backgrounds. When we know what works, we should make sure that the resources are there to do what works.
Thomas J. Mertz