Letters for 04-10-2014

Make informed decision on tax
Before you vote in the upcoming school taxes election, please consider my following beliefs and concerns.
Some people say they won’t vote for the tax because they don’t have any children in school. Neither do l, but I once did. Even before that, I went to school here myself. Someone paid taxes for me, for my children and for my grandchildren to attend Union Parish schools. Some of our neighbors never had children, but they helped pay for me. If you lived in another place and moved here to retire, you owe this parish the financial help it needs to support the education of its children. It is one of the cycles of a prosperous life - someone gave to us when we couldn’t help ourselves and now we give to those coming along behind us.
I recently read a letter in The Gazette and realized there are many citizens of Union Parish that still don’t understand what is happening to our schools. First of all, the letter stated taxes had been passed solely to fund salary increases for our teachers. I do not know of anytime I have voted for increasing teacher salaries without other funding being included.
Even if taxes had been voted strictly for teacher salaries, the need was great. At one time Union Parish struggled to keep good teachers because our salary scale was lower than those of Ouachita and Lincoln Parishes. Many teachers stayed here about three years, gained lots of experience, received costly training and then took jobs elsewhere. The fact those neighboring parishes wanted our teachers proves they were good teachers and this situation occurred year after year.
The letter I read also stated that all Union Parish Schools are “D” schools, which is not true. Farmerville Junior High is now “C” school and some of the others have shown significant growth. I believe Downsville Charter was very close to becoming a “B” school before it became a charter. And think about this - many of the teachers at D’Arbonne Woods were former teachers of Union Parish schools. So if the teachers are the same, why do they have a “B”?
Now let me address the real issue. We have become a selfish society - a what-about-me society. There is not a single child that asks to be born into this world and especially not into a world of poverty, drugs or neglect. Yet many of our children are born into just such an environment and I believe they deserve the same chances that other children have. But we are not giving them those opportunities; we seem to be satisfied with what we are providing. And it is going to be even less if these taxes don’t pass.
Union Parish residents currently pay the second lowest school taxes in the state. What does that say about us and our responsibility to children? Proud Union Parish citizens should step up to the plate and fund education for the future of our children and for the future of our parish.
Some classes already have up to 35 children in them; if the tax proposal does not pass all classes may have 35 or more in them. By law, 15 buses will be pulled from the road next year because they are too old. The days of buses going from house to house will be over. Parents will have to take their children to bus stops, which may be a few miles away. All of the buildings need new roofs, new plumbing, new electrical wiring and the list goes on and on. But most of all, they need to be made safer. Every year we hear of attacks at schools. Don’t our children deserve to have the best protection possible? What could be sadder than something tragic happening and knowing we could have prevented it by voting “Yes” in 2014?
Before the last tax proposal, people were misinformed that the tax increase would not help D’Arbonne Woods Charter School. That school is going to profit from these taxes, too. They will get their share of the money. The state calculates their part and subtracts it from Union Parish’s state money. It may sound complicated, but ask the DWCS board; they can tell you the truth. They will benefit from the taxes, too. I have heard some say they don’t need the money because they just got $18 million. Yes, they did get a loan of $18 million and according to the newspapers they will have to pay it back. They need the taxes!
Now I want to mention another issue: The old complaint that the school board closed my school and they said they wouldn’t. The closing of those schools was inevitable. We have been told since the 1930s there were too many schools too close together. Before that time there were schools all over Union Parish. One by one they closed. Why? Because the parish could not financially keep them open. Well, we know nothing has gotten cheaper since those days. So it makes sense that there was coming a day when we could not afford all of the remaining community schools. Did anyone want to close them? The previous boards and Central Office personnel knew how the separate communities felt and tried to prevent the closing of the schools for too many years - so many, in fact, that now the pot is dry.
It doesn’t matter what was said ten years ago or last week. What matters is our children need and deserve as good an education as children are getting down the road, across the river or in another state. The sad thing is, even if the taxes pass, our schools won’t be overflowing with money. There are too many demands for it. They will still be operating with limited resources, but at least they will be able to operate. Contrary to what many believe, I know our teachers will continue to equip our children with the knowledge and skills to compete in the job market. We have too many successful graduates who have become doctors and nurses, lawyers, accountants, writers, welders, electricians, computer analysts, etc. who prove our teachers are doing a great job. If children leave our schools ill equipped, it is because they did not want to learn. They are products of our deteriorated society, not deteriorated schools.
Before you make up your mind to vote, please picture all of the precious babies and children you know and pray that God will guide you to make the right choice for these children.
Marjorie Wisecarver