Letters to the Editor
To the editor:
This is regarding the group of people advocating to close the rural schools. We obtained a report from the Douglas County Courthouse that states the urban Baldwin City limit patrons pay a grand total of $30,858,321.00 in real estate, state assessed and personal property tax. This is 42.45 percent of the taxes. In contrast, the rural Baldwin School District patrons pay a grand total of $41,837,433.00 which is 57.55 percent of the tax. If you would like to verify this information contact the Douglas County budget office located at the courthouse.
The option of rural and in-town schools is part of what makes the Baldwin School District unique. Many parents in our district have chosen to build homes in a specific area to attend that specific elementary school. A group of people in Baldwin is trying to take
that option away. The taxes generated by the rural communities pay 57.55 percent of the taxes for the entire school district. That amount certainly covers the cost of those rural buildings. The return for the rural schools cannot be measured. It is more than brick and mortar, the teachers, the parents and the students. It is a system that works cohesively. The rural schools take nothing away from the in-town elementary schools. They offer a quality education with new buildings supported financially by the entire school district. So why can't we all exist peacefully and work collectively to make our entire district No. 1?
To the editor: Our school district is in a financial crisis, much like many families in our community. When this happens to families, hard choices have to be made to cut things that are no longer affordable. The same is true with our school district. Over the past two years our district has cut $1.3 million from a yearly budget of approximately $10 million. These cuts have come from what has been called “low-hanging fruit.” We have yet to be able to reinstate that low-hanging fruit with no plans in the near future to do so. This crisis has built up over many years, not just the past few. The question is what could the Baldwin School District do with the half million dollars we could save by consolidating our elementary schools? We could work toward retaining our quality teachers and staff by giving them their first salary increase since 2007-08. We could unfreeze the pay increase for those teachers who have earned their masters degrees. We could turn the hall lights back on in the buildings when occupied by students. We could fix the existing leaks in roofs at multiple buildings. We could have our libraries open five days a week. We could offer summer school again. We could reinstate keyboarding/technology for the elementary students. We could have computers that are reliable and efficient for the junior high and high schools. We could repair the gym floors. We could replace worn-out bathroom fixtures. We could have principals performing principal duties, such as overseeing the education of our children, instead of being part-time custodians and lunchroom attendants. We could provide classrooms with their standard supplies as opposed to parents providing them. We could have reliable building budgets that won’t be revoked in the middle of the school year. We could eliminate or lower textbook, activity and classroom fees. We could offer our teachers continuing education. We could provide elementary music and physical education supplies as opposed to them being funded by PTO. We could replace our 1980 and other outdated textbooks. We could have the gyms open during breaks for student and community use. We could upgrade to more nutritious lunches. We could replace our 20-year-old buses with new, efficient ones that will keep our children safe. We could replace lockers that won’t open. It is vital to our children's education that we reinstate the business teachers, math teacher, librarians for all buildings, school nurses, curriculum director, custodians, school resource officer, elementary technology teachers, reading and math specialists, cooks, secretaries, and other staff and programs which have been cut from our schools due to budget issues. There are so many things that need to be repaired and reinstated in our school district. The citizen group that is asking the board to combine elementary schools is not doing this out of being mean-spirited or out to target a special group. We see the loyalty, ties and love of the rural schools. We truly appreciate their situation. Unfortunately, our district no longer can financially support six buildings. Very few districts our size can adequately support more than one or two elementary schools and we are attempting to support four. We are in a financial crisis and sacrifices continue to be required. Consolidating our students is the logical next one. It will benefit the entire district. All 1,400 students will at some time be in the junior high and high school buildings that are in dire need of repair. We are all affected by the lack of support for staff, classrooms and programs. We will all pay higher fees and continue to be asked to fundraise more money to make up for the shortfalls. All of our elementary schools offer a caring, dedicated staff and an excellent education. We all achieve Standard of Excellence. It is time to come together as one district and community and bring back to our district the once high standards we so proudly had in the past. Ed and Joanne Kite