Small tax hike will improve learning environment
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
The vote on the minuscule sales tax increase in Pasquotank County is about children, not about money or buildings.
When the temperature in the classroom is so cold that students need their coats, children cannot focus on learning. All they know is that they are cold. When the temperature is so cold that they would need gloves if they had them, their hands are too stiff to write. When classes are moved to warmer locations, teachers are twisting themselves in knots trying to deliver quality instruction without their customary resources. In addition, disciplinary problems increase because of the unaccustomed classroom structure.
In one school, the mold growth was so rapid that a teacher who had scrubbed and bleached her desks before school opened found herself doing so again shortly after school opened. A pair of shoes left in a desk over the weekend had molded by Monday morning. One student who had health issues because of the mold had a medical excuse to attend only half a day, thereby limiting her exposure to the mold and consequently to learning. We sometimes require our children to study in toxic conditions.
We actually need a larger tax increase for more school funding. And I am not talking about raising money for teacher pay, although that also needs to be addressed.
For decades, when the school system needed to tighten its belt, the maintenance department has taken the hit. They have been asked to do more with less. These men deserve a salute from the community for their creative efforts. Yet, in spite of their efforts, we still have schools with lengthy repair lists. The custodial staff are supervised by the maintenance department and are also understaffed. The maintenance department needs more funding.
Do you think the recent teacher strikes are about teacher pay? Only partly. Teachers use a good chunk of their pay for classroom supplies. In the elementary grades, that money is spent on pencils, journals, crayons or markers. In high school, the need might be graph paper. In all grades, teachers purchase pencil sharpeners, tissues and hand sanitizer. These costs add up over the course of the school year. In addition to these basics, other needs ranging from copy paper to technology are curtailed. As a consequence, children are deprived.
This tax increase is about helping out children. Can we please keep that in the forefront?
Full disclosure: I am a retired high school teacher and current elementary school volunteer.