By Troy Lambert
The levy debate was a nightmare. Not only was the debate itself emotionally charged and polarizing, but it occasionally descended into a political and ideological argument rather than what the whole debate should have been about: What is best for our kids?
After a well fought battle on both sides, with both accusing the other of scare tactics and cheating, the levy passed. We’re covered for the next two years. Sort of.
My son is entering Middle School, and to be honest, I don’t want to go through this debate again in two years for a number of reasons. I don’t think anyone else does either. So to prevent that from happening, we need to get to work.
I proposed, before the election, that no matter what the outcome, we come together and form a Kuna Education Collaborative: an initiative to work together on the issues facing Kuna Schools. It’s time to put action to words. There is some clear work to be done over the next two years, and with your help, we can make a difference.
We need to find alternate sources of funding. There is a clear debate in Kuna and elsewhere whether school levies should be a permanent solution to school funding. I have mixed feelings, but one thing is certain: each levy will be a battle. Unless we can lower the amount we ask for, reduce tax burdens, yet still provide exceptional education for our kids.
So where should the money come from? The state is not likely to be much help. Federal funds are not forthcoming any time soon. Grants, private contributions, and budget cuts need to be explored.
We need to cut the budget reasonably. How? This means careful research and creative ideas. Here are a few that may or may not work.
- Privatizing bus and janitorial services. This can and should be considered carefully, however some studies nationwide show that while these moves save money short term, they start costing the district more after just five years. This needs to be studied before we jump from frying pan to fire, so to speak.
- Using technology to save money. Want to save on your child’s college education? Buy them a tablet, and buy e-textbooks. Cheaper by far, and storage in the cloud makes losing text books a thing of the past. Talk about the most recent updates? E-texts are the way to go. Increasing numbers of these texts are available for high schools too. Transition kids to one device containing several books, and you save space, resources, textbook damage and loss.
- There are other technology options, ones the district is exploring with Chromebooks (bought with grants, not levy money) and meeting with great success and regional acclaim.
- Adopting alternative education methods, and ceasing to call them alternatives. Many ‘alternative education’ models increasing student engagement and leadership produce higher test scores, satisfied students, and less stressed out teachers. They also save money, especially long term. They should not be called alternatives, but rather just education methods. Most are too detailed to outline here, but they exist, and have been applied with exceptional results.
Finally, grants and private contributions. Grants are hard won, but often worth the money and time invested (yes, getting a grant costs money up front in preparation and grant writing, not to mention follow up, but can also have great benefit). Want a writer in residence program in Kuna? We can do that locally. Want local businessmen to help our students understand the real world? We have community organizations that can help with that.
Are these all the answers? No. Is this everything that should be on the table? Hardly. For that we need the rest of you. This is both an introduction and invitation. No matter what position you held on the levy, we need you to come together with us, and figure out a long term, sustainable way to provide the best education possible for the kids in our community.