January 27, 2004
The Great Debate / Yes: More cuts just punish our students
By Mary Hansen
20Below News Team
In elementary school, I didn't understand what budget cuts meant. Later, I noticed teachers stopped giving paper if we ran out during class. When I reached high school, budget rumors were rampant. Worries never ceased that we'd be losing schools days, class time, teachers, electives and sports.
The bathroom lacks toilet paper. We study from out-of-date textbooks. Students must pay to play sports. Classes are getting enormous. The heater doesn't work. After last year's cuts, we lost four school days and were considered lucky.
The shortage of teachers, supplies and days are all caused by budget cuts. If Measure 30 fails, there will be an additional $1 million cut in my district alone - Florence's Siuslaw School District.
Voting no would strip $338 million from Oregon public schools. "No" means sacrificing school days, programs and teachers. To deny 60,000 Oregonians health care, including 24,000 children, select "No."
Opponents argue that it's a Band-aid solution. Yes. It is a band-aid solution. But why let a wound become infected? Although Measure 30 is only a temporary answer, there is a desperate need now for money in public schools.
Many opponents are frustrated because they believe public tax dollars are wasted. They reason that rejecting Measure 30 would punish the government by forcing it to manage funds better.
But it doesn't punish the Legislature. It punishes students who have no control over those decisions left to adults - many of whom have already benefited from a free public education. It hurts Oregonians who need health care. Without money to support public safety programs, lives are placed in danger as criminals stroll same streets where children will play because schools were forced to close early.
Should legislators be recalled? Maybe. Does the tax structure need reorganization? Possibly. I don't know. But I do know that now, those options aren't available. There is no blanket solution being offered. Schools cannot afford to wait while the public argues over what to do in the long term.
If Measure 30 fails, many schools will shut their doors. Some districts won't even be able to afford transportation to alternative schools. Some students will no longer have the opportunity to be students.
A typical family will pay $7 a month. And the less a family earns, the smaller the percentage of the tax increase.
This is America. Public education has been at the root of our society since the foundation of this country. Today, voters hold the power to let schools stay open and keep children at their desks. Any other alternative is unimaginable.
Mary Hansen is a sophomore at Siuslaw High. Reach her at 20Below@guardnet.com.