Quality schools promote responsible citizenship, develop capable leaders, encourage entrepreneurial spirit, provide local businesses with trained, hard-working employees, attract new businesses, stabilize property values, prepare the citizens that will fund Social Security and Medicare in the future and assure deployed service members that their children are constructively active and learning. Strong schools are a source of pride to a community that values responsibility and work ethic. Advocating for an educated citizenry is the height of patriotism; well educated students are the insurance that America will continue to be great. We all benefit from quality schools, but what can you, as an individual, do to help our students?
Oak Harbor schools face a very real challenge, and it should be clear to everyone that we can’t depend on the federal or state governments to ensure our students are ready for the 21st century. Only our community can stand up and take action.
The last four years have been tough on our students. Although Oak Harbor has made do for decades with far less education funding than our neighbors, the dedication of teachers and staff and years of conservative budgeting have made steadily improving schools and continued student success possible so far. This will no longer be the case without a reliable funding source. Money is not the answer to every, or even most, education challenge, but a basic level of dependable funding is necessary to provide a stable learning environment. Right now, that funding can only come from a local school levy.
In the last four years, our schools have lost 34 teachers, not including changes due to varying student enrollment. Special education for our most vulnerable kids is stretched to the breaking point, textbooks are old and outdated. Social studies texts end before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. There are not enough computers and technology support for a 21st century education.
Middle school students have lost 30 minutes of instruction each day, nearly three weeks of the school year and that school year has been shortened for all students by 3.5 days. After school tutoring has been severely cut, leaving struggling students with little opportunity to catch up. Sports teams have been reduced and eliminated; only half the middle school kids who want to participate can. Building preventive maintenance is being put off for years. The cuts extend deeply into virtually every aspect of our schools — to our libraries, counselors, nurses, paper, supplies and on and on.
We can’t restore all that’s been lost with February’s proposed higher school levy, but we can bring back the most critical items and protect almost everything else. We’ve come a long way in the last 15 years. It would be a tragedy to slide back to the days of leaky roofs and limited opportunity.
So what can you do? Please join us for the school levy campaign kick-off rally 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at North Whidbey Middle School and make a positive difference. For more information, go to www.yesoakharbor.org
Oak Harbor School Board