Schools need more funds. What are we willing to sacrifice?

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04/29/2018 10:01:21 PM MDT

Despite what you may have heard, when RE-1 Valley and other area teachers joined the statewide walkout efforts Friday, rallying at the Logan County Courthouse, they weren’t there just because of their paychecks.

We’d wager a guess that, while certainly teacher pay and PERA uncertainty were part of the motivation behind the protests statewide, the majority of those who participated were there with another reason in mind: students.

But, some might argue, if they care so much about their students, why create a situation where those very students missed a day in school?

Certainly there are learning opportunities to be found in the protest — lessons about civics and economics, for a start. A large focus of the rally was on creating better opportunities for students, by providing them with the classroom resources they need to learn — current textbooks, modern technology, even needs as basic as desks to sit at and buses in good condition. And part of that, of course, is ensuring that classrooms are lead by high-quality, qualified teachers.

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No one goes into education to get rich, but is it unreasonable to expect a college-educated professional to be able to support themselves, without needing to spend their spare hours working a second job? Knowing that a starting teacher in our state may well qualify for government assistance — and knowing that RE-1 Valley teachers are among the lowest paid in the state — it’s hard to fault them for asking for a bit more in their paychecks.

And lest anyone forget, the walkout was not the first step in seeking to address the funding issues our teachers and school districts face. RE-1 Valley has twice sought voter approval to raise the mill levy and make up a portion of what it has lost over the last 10 years in state funding, to no avail. Instead, the district has had to make sacrifices that include cutting positions and programs, and even days of school, to make ends meet while still delivering a quality education that has received notice at the state level. Those sacrifices extend to the teachers, who have foregone salary increases they may have counted on to pay back student loans, while many of them have even used their own meager paychecks to buy supplies for their classrooms. And perhaps worst of all, our students have had to sacrifice opportunities — field trips, extracurriculars, state-of-the-art tools — because the schools simply can’t afford them.

A one day closure, in the face of everything, seems like a small sacrifice. An inconvenience for parents who had to arrange child care, sure. Of course, the rallying teachers also sacrificed a personal day to be there. But if the school funding issue is not resolved, what other sacrifices might be required of us?

Not everyone can teach. Beyond the training that goes into becoming a competent educator, there are certain personality traits necessary to be truly effective in reaching students and helping them grasp a new concept or see the connections between two seemingly unrelated subjects. Patience. Empathy. Caring. Selflessness. We were proud to celebrate a number of teachers with those very characteristics Friday night, just hours after the rally, at our Crystal Apple awards banquet. But we fear that unless steps are taken to ensure that teaching is a profession that will continue to attract applicants with those qualities, our children, and our future, will sacrifice much more than we can afford to lose.

May is Teacher Appreciation Month, and we can’t think of a better way to show appreciation than to lend your support to ballot initiative 93, which would add $1.6 billion in k-12 education funding statewide through an income tax hike for certain higher-income taxpayers. Supporters will need to collect over 100,000 signatures to make the November ballot; if you’re a registered voter, yours can be one of them.



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