Friday, December 12, 2014

Take Action: Fund Our Schools

I'm up on my pedestal again. This time it's about school funding. The county I live in, Pickens County, SC, has rather great schools in a state not known for good schools. It's one of the reasons we are happy to live here. But the schools seem to exist despite everything the local and state governments are doing to undermine them. Despite a surge in population here over the past decade, property taxes (which are SO low), have not increased at all. So the schools are desperately in need of funding. They're considering closing several schools, even top performing ones. I don't know about you, but I'd be happy to pay a little more taxes to ensure our children are well educated.

The superintendent has proposed a budget that will increase teacher salaries, fund capital improvements, and in general give the schools the money they desperately need. The school board, however, has chosen to not approve the budget, and keeps passing the buck by not voting on it. The opponents are clearly scared to raise taxes, likely in fear of losing votes. But honestly, even the most tax-hating folks I know agree that schools could use some cash, and it has to come from somewhere. It's estimated that supporting this proposed budget would cost the average homeowner $22/year. We can handle that.

Thanks to the efforts of parents and citizens, including groups like Concerned Citizens of Pickens County, the school board is feeling the pressure to reconsider the budget vote (either that, or they're getting cold feet to raise taxes, meaning they want to push the hard work off yet again). They were supposed to meet on Dec. 15 to vote on the new budget, but they just decided to delay the vote until "sometime before July." So we have until then to put the pressure on.

We need to voice our concerns. We need to let the school board know that we demand a new budget to fund our schools and educate our children.

First, sign this petition.

Next, email or call the board members. Their full contact info is here. Calls are very effective, but I know email is easier for some of us. They haven't all listed their email addresses, but here's what we have:
Alex Saitta: alexsaitta@pickens.k12.sc.us
Phillip Bowers: phillip.bowers@duke-energy.com
Henry Wilson: hwsc1@yahoo.com
Brian Swords: bswords@tctc.edu
Judy Edwards: randjedwards@aol.com

To keep things even easier, here is a suggested email you can cut and paste and, if you'd like, personalize. Thank you for taking the time to stand up for our schools, our children and our future citizenry.

As a resident and voter in Pickens County, I've been following the recent school board meetings. I'm aware of the pressures on our general fund budget as we enter our 12th year without an allowable increase in taxes to account for our community's population growth. The result has been teacher salaries that lag behind the rest of the Upstate and the fourth-lowest per-capita student spending in South Carolina. 

I was disappointed to see that the school budget was not voted on, but I hope this means that when you reconvene, you will vote to APPROVE the superintendent's plan and provide our schools with the money they need NOW to serve our students and teachers. 

There is no better investment in our county and its residents than to educate our future citizens. I approve the moderate tax increase proposed by the district superintendent to ensure that our schools are of high quality. Low taxes may secure you a few votes, but the long-term consequences of underfunded schools are unconscionable. 

Please do not leave us in gridlock. Please do not put this off until another election, or pass the buck to future school boards. We elected you -- please pass the budget needed now to fund our schools. 

Thank you for your service.

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