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Dear “Prop Learn” voters

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Skylar Laird

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May 11, 2018
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A letter to those who voted "no" on the latest tax levy

Prop+Learn+is+the+third+attempt+at+an+education+tax+levy+for+the+district.+It+lost+on+April+3+by+approximately+500+votes.+
Prop Learn is the third attempt at an education tax levy for the district. It lost on April 3 by approximately 500 votes.

Prop Learn is the third attempt at an education tax levy for the district. It lost on April 3 by approximately 500 votes.

Prop Learn is the third attempt at an education tax levy for the district. It lost on April 3 by approximately 500 votes.

Dear everyone who voted “no” on Prop Learn,

 

I don’t think you’re all horrible people. I’m sure, when you walked into that voting booth, you didn’t think, “how can I make life a little more difficult for every high school in the area?” There are lots of valid reasons to vote no: maybe it was because you can’t afford a tax increase, maybe you disagree with the district’s financial decisions, maybe you just saw that your taxes would increase and decided your money was more worthwhile to you than the community around you.

Besides, your vote didn’t even matter, right? How much could the district even need this levy? You couldn’t see the repercussions when you looked at those boxes and picked “no.” All you could see was what it meant for you: an increase in taxes. And who in their right mind would voluntarily raise their own taxes, especially if it didn’t even benefit them?

But the fact of the matter is that this “no” will impact you. If you and all the voters from other districts continue to check “no” on these education funds, you will see the cracks begin to form. As a student, I see them every day I go to school.

I see your vote in the kids sitting in the very back of classrooms, crammed at a table because there are no desks left for them in rooms packed past capacity. These multitudes of students fall through the cracks forming as teachers lack the time to work individually with every one of their 120-plus kids, allowing students to struggle silently without notice from the teacher simply because they are so outnumbered by the sheer amount of students they must teach.

I see your vote in these same exhausted teachers, working harder than they’ve ever had to for frozen wages, doing everything they can to help their multitudes of students for far less than the pay they deserve. Some work part-time jobs outside of school, most have families, all teach day after day. They come in early and stay late, teaching more and more students as budget cuts cause their co-workers to lose their jobs and don’t allow for more help to be hired to ease the armfuls of essays and homework assignments they take home every night, enormous enough to deter them from even assigning essays for fear of how daunting a task grading them will be, causing students to lose valuable practice – all because there’s not enough money to go around.

I see your vote in the newly imposed activity fee, requiring every student who joins any sport or club, regardless of how big it is or how expensive it is or how often it meets, to pay 40 dollars simply to participate. I see it in the stressed faces of kids who don’t have 40 dollars to spare and are now being threatened with being kicked out of their favorite club, a reason for them to come to school every day. I see it in the pained faces of parents who want their child to be able to participate, who want them to be in extracurriculars to help with their college resumes, but who now aren’t so sure because they can’t pay the price. I see it in the money coming from students’ own pockets to make up for what money was cut from the district itself.

I see your vote in the fear and rumors that haunt the school, in the talk of other schools that had to face budget cuts and then cut this team or that one, schools that stopped being able to afford an art program or a music program or new textbooks for the science classes. I see it in the students who worry that their team, their club, will be cut next, and in the already-faulty equipment that the school doesn’t have the money to repair or replace, like the broken computers in labs or the beat up books in English classes. I see it in the fear that there won’t be enough money to fund my favorite clubs anymore or that the ones who already don’t have enough money to function will be cut even further to make more room in the budget for bigger activities, or even just basic necessities. I see it in the decisions the district has to make, sacrificing one thing for another because money is tight.

Where you checked that box, where you saw nothing but a tax raise, I see the faults of public education, of a district in which budget cuts happen year after year. Those of us who have to face the consequences of your “no” every day see your vote in these snowballing issues, each one adding up until eventually, we will have nothing left.

I’m sure you had your reasons for picking “no”, but those reasons aren’t enough to fill in the cracks forming around us. Those reasons can’t fund a district. Those reasons can’t help every child from the age of five to 18. Only a “yes” can do that.

 

Sincerely,

 

Those who feel your “no” every day.

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11 Comments

11 Responses to “Dear “Prop Learn” voters”

  1. Megan on April 9th, 2018 1:49 pm

    Absolutely Amazing! Wish i could share this with my coworkers, well written.

    [Reply]

  2. Diane on April 9th, 2018 7:40 pm

    I wish ‘NO’ voters had calculated a tax increase for Francis Howell Schools. Take the tax increase…..divide it by 365 days to give you the average daily cost to fund a better education for the students.

    We all have a vested interest in our future! Never forget….student today are our future!!!

    [Reply]

  3. Elizabeth Lawless on April 9th, 2018 7:55 pm

    Just wanted to say “Thank you.!” Thank you for speaking up for those of us that are teachers, your fellow & future students and our community. Proud to see you using your voice and perspective in such a positive way!

    [Reply]

  4. John Stiles on April 9th, 2018 11:03 pm

    Thank you for your remarks Skylar.

    You are obviously passionate about your school/district. Unfortunately, it seems you have only been exposed to one side of the story. I feel it’s my duty to illustrate the other side for you. Question: Have you gone through the 491 pages of redundancy, called the Francis Howell School District budget?

    Here are some highlights, and reasons why many people have voted against this PERMANENT levy.

    -Debt capacity p54-The school district has a debt tolerance they have maximized in the past.

    -2 elections last year and still increased election fund in the new budget. The special election in August 2017 cost an estimated $250,000. Do you think that money could have been used for the students or to pay for more teachers?

    -Salaries account for over 58% of the annual budget. Did you know that well run businesses entire payrolls stay in the 42-45% range??

    -Tax chart-my house is a $250000 and I paid $3200 in taxes last year. The school district tends to average these numbers and only publish the ones that are favorable to their agenda.

    -P63-enrollment is down over 1000 students YET they are adding 9 staff members to help students with emotional issues? There are so many other things they could spend money on. Like teachers salaries.

    -P128-Chart of expenditures. Vocational education vs Student Activities??? 150K vs $5.4M?? What prepares students better for the real world? Learning basic carpentry or small engine repair or activities?
    -THIS IS MY BIGGEST ISSUE…Executive and Building Level Administration salaries $15.3M + $120M = $135M/$230M budget = 58.69% of the budget. If you could get the cost of administration down to just 50%, we free up almost $20M. What could the district do if they could free up $20M???

    -Here’s something you may not understand just yet but on P350-Assessed Value is up 7.92% or $180M over 2017 ($180M/$100 = $1,800,000 x 4.18 = $7,524,000 increase). If Prop Learn passed, that would go to $8,390,000.
    Assessed vs Market Value Ratio increase of 1.47%.

    -P355-impact on property owners. The district touted it would only cost a homeowner with a property of $250000, an additional $15/mo. Well that is actually $483/yr which equates to $40/mo (personal & residential taxes)

    P407-average executive and administrative salaries 15% increase in last 4 years vs 11% for teachers. If anything, that should be the other way around.

    The tone in your letter to the “no” voters reads to me like someone didn’t get their way and is throwing a tantrum. That usually happens to those who are uninformed. Please, if you are going to berate the people who actually pay taxes to support the school districts, at least inform yourself of BOTH sides of the argument.

    I welcome your questions or an opportunity to have a dialogue at school, with administrators present.

    The current administration needs to take a look at the Rockwood school district and change the structure here. Too many layers of executive and administrative positions taking the very money you would like the taxpayer cough up.

    Your article was well written but your content was uninformed and emotional. Keep working at your craft.

    I am a parent of a current Howel Central student and both of my older children attended Francis Howell HS. So, I am invested both ways.

    JS

    [Reply]

  5. C Dodd on April 9th, 2018 11:14 pm

    Every year the schools turn out kids who can’t spell, punctuate, use proper English, figure out simple percentage problems that they should be able to do in their heads. Public schools are failing our students and future citizens/employees! Instead schools focus on all kinds of issues that have no place in school, confusing kids who are too young to understand some of the bizarre ideas thrown at them. It’s not just that the taxes go up on our homes, it’s that the schools are doing a horrible job of educating our kids. And, just how many years in one’s life are we supposed to pay for this? My kids have kids who are almost through school, so I haven’t had a vested interest in the school system for years (who failed my younger daughter big time, I might add). My husband had ONE child who is now 46 with no children of his own, but he’s still paying for schools who are turning out children who don’t have the skills to perform a simple job, let alone get an advanced degree like science or math. Of course there will always be a percentage of achievers who succeed no matter what, but the things WE learned in Junior High far surpassed the skills kids have in high school today. The quote I heard from a Superintendant of schools at a Chamber of Commerce meeting one day stated that the district spends $42,000 PER STUDENT each year!!! Give out vouchers for that amount and let people choose to send their kids to a private school where they are getting what they pay for!!

    [Reply]

  6. Anna Gingrich on April 10th, 2018 8:38 am

    Proud alumni of FHC and FHC Today here… it is very troubling to hear about what these budget cuts mean for students now. But I hope this story goes viral, because MO taxpayers need to hear it! Compelling and well-written!

    [Reply]

  7. We Voted No on April 10th, 2018 12:03 pm

    To the people who think voting yes was the only answer,

    Skylar, maybe you are right. The majority of the people who voted “NO” agree that we do not want our taxes to rise even more. I know you are still in school and do not pay taxes, but when you do, you will see that it’s not all sugar plumbs and fairytales. My family and I live in the FHC district and voted NO on Prop L. Several factors came into play with trying to make the decision that we did. Most of our decision came from the irresponsible budget and spending that the district does and the second is the taxes we already pay into the district. With a new home and 2 newer cars, we already pay over $6,000 a year just into the FHC district line item on our real estate and personal property taxes. That is a tremendous annual contribution to a school district that is being mismanaged and that we do not even have children enrolled in. We personally do not believe that a tax increase is justified when we pay so much already and do not require anything in return. Our state is overrun with taxation and it always seems that everyone’s answer to the question is to just raise taxes. I am sure that my kids are no different than you and your peers at school in that you all think that we are just made of money and it just grows on trees. I have no problem supporting my community and we support it often by donating to our parish, fundraisers, benefits and other community activities. What I cannot do is continue to throw good money after bad money in a district this playing the “poor poor me” card when it comes to finances and budgets. You should look at the top of the food chain and demand that they come up with a better solution that YOUR community can help you support.

    All the best,

    j

    [Reply]

  8. Kathy clemons on April 10th, 2018 9:34 pm

    I so agree with you. You are very grown up to write a paper like this. If I were in your district I would have voted YES!!!!

    [Reply]

  9. Chuck Dale-Derks on April 13th, 2018 5:10 pm

    Well said, Skylar Laird. Thank you for the article.

    [Reply]

  10. John Hoesli on April 14th, 2018 9:53 am

    I voted “yes” for Proposition Learn because I do think our schools need more funding given cuts in funding from the state and an increase in overall expenses. Overall your article covered some excellent reasons to support this tax levy. However, a few things I want to point out. Your comment about “ I see it in the stressed faces of kids who don’t have 40 dollars to spare“. Well these kids come from the same families who would be hit by this tax levy. Maybe some these very parents would rather scrape $40 for this activity fee rather than hundreds of dollars every year in tax increase. This is the same argument some people who voted “no” gave, they simply could not spare any money. The second comment, I do believe teachers deserve raises like everyone else, but the big increases they received under the last contract helped put the school district in the current bind. Plus they received these raises when the rest of us had no raises or a reduction in pay. It is hard find sympathy on that subject right now. Sensible pay raises in the future that attract the talent we need, but does not hamstring the district is what we need going forward. Hopefully we can get a future levy passed, but damage control from the district will still be required.

    [Reply]

  11. Mary Garrett on April 19th, 2018 8:55 pm

    Very well written and logical analysis. We all suffer when our schools do, tangibly with falling property values and socially in the loss of well-educated citizens and workers. Getting by with fewer and fewer resources is only possible for so long.

    [Reply]

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