To the Point for 8/18/2005

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SCHOOL IS AGAIN underway, and as classes and students get underway for another year, there are some trends going on around us that I think deserve notice.

A front page article in Tuesday’s Madison Courier reports that elementary students in the Madison school system will see their “special” classes — music, art, and physical education — cut in half. The article says that the shifting of teachers within the corporation has forced the reductions, and the superintendent is quick to say in the story that this is “not an attack on the arts.”

Although school corporations are being asked to make some tough decisions as the state and federal governments continue to reduce the amount of funding coming to local schools; I can’t help but wonder when as a society we are all going to get to see the “train wreck”.

At the federal level, we are all exposed to the government’s policy of “No Child Left Behind”. That sounds good in practice, but in reality it becomes a work of fiction when schools are constantly being asked to do more with less.

The government demands higher attendance percentages, and then does away with funding to help buses get to rural kids. When everyone yells, the state turns around and allows the individual school corporations to recoup those lost funds by — raising YOUR property taxes.

Now each of us can only imagine the backlash that schools will catch from property owners when taxes go up. No one wants that, so schools either find other ways to absorb those costs, or things have to get cut.

We all live in a society where we “get our cake and eat it, too”; but more and more state and federal authorities are asking the local schools to explain why there’s not enough cake to go around.

Not every child is college material, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t solid, productive members of society. Sometimes students simply don’t want to go on to college, but state and federal officials parade up and down chanting a mantra that seeks to get all of us to believe that if a child doesn’t go on to college, then as a society we’ve failed them.

Sometimes kids don’t realize how green the grass is until they’ve been out of high school for a couple of years. Our own school superintendent, Tracy Caddell, is an example of that type of student. After working manual labor jobs for a time after high school, he reached the decision that he wanted more from his life, and he returned to school determined and focused to achieve.

But state standards, our school system failed Tracy Caddell at the point of his graduation; but everyone needs to learn that sometimes we don’t see the fruits of the seeds that our schools sew until much later.

But state and federal education officials are demanding fast food, when local schools are working with crock pots — and it just doesn’t mesh.

Here in Switzerland County, we need to be very conscious of the role that the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation plays in providing for our students while keeping our tax dollars in check.

Without the endowment corporation, our children would either be left to do without; or we would be left with picking up the tab.

Our kids have access to materials and technology that few others in the state do (at least in a community of this size). Partnering with the CAPE grant, our children are working on upper level technology that provides them with the ability to attain certifications that will let them walk out of graduation and into the work place with a solid and high paying job.

What is even more appreciated is that the endowment is also paying the debt service portion of our property taxes, which is reducing our tax load, and keeping money in our pockets.

For those with children in school, the endowment has agreed for the past two years to cover the textbook rental fees for all Switzerland County children. As a parent, those saved funds are very welcome at a time of the year when school clothes and other items need to be purchased.

Our buses are still running routes, and our teachers are still working with our children; and the Switzerland County School Corporation is recognized as one of the best in the state — if not the country.

Should Switzerland County Elementary School receive a Blue Ribbon award later this fall — and the school absolutely deserves it, then both elementary schools will have been honored nationally; and test scores continue to rise at the middle school and high school levels.

In an atmosphere where state and federal officials pad their political ambitions by demanding more accountability while using less funding; I am proud that my children attend a school corporation where that exact thing is happening.