Monday, October 12, 2015

Supporting Local Schools #MichEd

As a public school teacher, I'm a big advocate for supporting public school. That should not be a big surprise. In Michigan, there will be a number of important bond proposals in communities that are designed to help schools make important upgrades to their districts. Here is a list of districts that have proposals on the ballot this November.

State funding has not been enough to meet all of the needs of school districts. Per pupil funding is not matching the rate of inflation and there are only so many ways you can cut a budget before it severely impacts student learning. Here is a link to the Senate Fiscal Agency Report on Per Pupil Funding. Other than large donations from individuals (which is not a realistic way for districts to support themselves), bonds are the best way for a community to invest in their educational system. 

Here are some thoughts to consider,

I've heard people say that they do not want to support bonds because they do not have children in school, so they do not want their tax money directed to a system that does not directly impact them. That argument makes some sense, but if you look deeper, it is very flawed. Educating the youth of the community does have a direct impact on everyone, whether or not they have students in the system. A stronger educational system can have a positive impact on housing value, it can bring innovative business to the community looking to hire highly trained students, a highly educated community can impact crime, and many more positives are out there if support is given to these schools.

People have also said that they learned just fine without computers, so why do these kids need such fancy devices? While it is true that many of us grew up is world without these devices and have accomplished great things, that doesn't mean these tools have not been important to us today. I'm writing a blog with a Surface Pro 3. I had to teach myself how to use all of these tools. I did not learn this in a class. Tools like blogs and other forms of social media, as well as many different pieces of hardware, are now common place. We need to prepare our students for their future, not our past. Supporting a bond that will provide technology upgrades is key because it will give the students access to the best tools to prepare them for a world that expects them to know how to use them once they leave school. You wouldn't ask a doctor to only use the tools that he used to treat patients 30 years ago, so why would you want a teacher to only use the tools that were used for us? If so, it's time to invest a ton of money in chalk and personal slate boards for our students.

Some bonds do not have anything to do with technology. They are bonds designed to keep building working. Fixing the room, paving parking lots, and other important infrastructure items to keep the learning environment safe for all students. It is important to look into bond proposals to see exactly what they are asking for and what they want to spend it on. Every bond is different for every community. It is important to make decisions based on the bond that impacts your community, not what others have said about bonds in their community.

On the school side, it is very important to have a clear plan to present to the community. What are you going to do with the bond money and how are you going to support it?

As a parent/resident, I supported the bond that came up a couple of years ago. It was a no-brainer for me. I wanted to make sure that my son would have access to the best tools available for his education. I researched and read everything I could on the issue and felt it was right for my family and the community as a whole.

As a teacher, I loved the built in support my home district had in place once the bond was passed. They have organized a tech conference for their staff at the start of the school year and have brought in national level Keynote speakers to kick off the year and inspire the teachers. Providing this support to the staff is crucial. Buying a bunch of tech is nice, but it will be worthless unless you have a plan of action to support it. I was confident that my home district was going to

No matter what, it is important to reach out and ask questions. Attend board meetings, email the superintendent, visit websites, talk to neighbors, and do anything else you can think of to get all of the facts. A yes vote for a bond could ensure that the students in your community can stay competitive and well educated for years to come. A no vote could set the community back years.

Check out this site to see if your community has a bond coming up this year.  

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