The Transylvania Times -

By Meredith Licht
Special To The Times 

Time For 'Bond, School Bond,' To Help Us

 


It’s budget season in Transylvania County, and that means my husband is putting in overtime.

Now that the school board is meeting twice a month, I am gone more often and he is the one cooking, washing up, and supervising homework and bedtime routines while I am watching the school board struggle with prioritizing a list of capital needs so pressing that the board members must agonize about which needs are more immediate: safety or repairs and maintenance.

One question keeps coming up in these discussions, be they among the board or with the county commissioners: how did our schools come to this point? How could our school system allow itself to be in such a position? It is a dangerous and misleading question, one that implies that our schools are failing when, in fact, they are not. Ailing physically, yes. But failing? No.

Decreasing dropout rates, increasing graduation rates, regional and state science fair sweeps and test scores all indicate we are doing quite well. However, a look at the school board’s list of capital needs indicates our buildings are not faring as well as our students.

Our newest building, Pisgah Forest Elementary, is nearly 20 years old. We have HVAC systems over the hill at 40 plus years and designed for different times and different needs than our current reality. We have building access and safety concerns, roofs desperately needing repairs, and buildings and playgrounds requiring upgrades to maintain our students’ health and safety. That’s to mention we haven’t had new textbooks in years.

Federal, state and county budget cuts over the last several years have taken a toll on the school system, which has been forced to absorb the financial impact of a weak economy. Because of this, we will have to draw down our system’s fund balance to dangerously low levels in fiscal year 2014.

We are treading a dangerous path. North Caro-lina’s children are constitutionally guaranteed the right to a quality, free public school education. Our state constitution further charges local governments to help fund public schools. For years, Transylvanians have been ardent supporters of our children and our school system. We voted for a school bond every decade between the 1960s and the 1990s because we understand just how important education is to our community’s health and vitality.

Our schools have been a point of pride in our community for decades. We have been innovators, leading the way in desegregation, high academic standards, school calendars and integrating technology. The world continues to change and evolve rapidly, but our facilities have not. We have allowed our school buildings to become stagnant, and any homeowner will tell you that you have to continually invest in your home in order for it to remain in good shape.

Our students deserve the best. We have done a wonderful job educating our children in our aging buildings and with aging equipment, but imagine what our students could do if they had better facilities and tools. When we allow our buildings to slowly decay because we have not invested in them, we are telling our children that we do not value them or their education. While we say that our children’s education is important to us, where we put our money tells another story.

We owe our children, and we are past due. Our delinquency will eventually affect us, but right now our students, our children, are suffering from our neglect and paying a price much larger than the repayment of a bond.

It’s time to demand a new bond for our schools. If we believe in education and its promise, we have to invest in it. Now is the time — bond rates are low but won’t stay that way indefinitely. Our county has enough money in its fund balance to pay off most, if not all, of our previous bond right now, and doing so would save our tax dollars, directing them to the principle instead of interest payments.

It is time. Some students may be waiting for Superman, but ours need another hero: Bond... School Bond.

(Licht is in her 12th year of teaching in Transylvania County Schools and is the president of the Transylvania County Association of Educators.)

 
 

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