We are all teachers. Some of us get paid the big bucks to do it full time. We’re like farmers. Both are in the seed-planting business. The movement of the planets and stars and the grace of God determine whether the child learns and the seed sprouts. Such pursuits are only for the brave and strong of heart.
At this point in the school year, the reality of public education collides head-on with the idealistic vision we had for children on that very first day. The honeymoon is over for many. Some have hit their stride and their classrooms are running like well-oiled machines. Others struggle. But for all of us, there is a daily conversation with co-workers about what can be done to reach our students and prepare them for a challenging future.
Teachers are historians, mathematicians, scientists, writers, musicians or artists. We are also adult role models, mentors and child advocates. We do our best to teach kids what’s expected of them in the outside world, not just in the classroom. We also seek to incorporate good manners and decorum.
The grim truth is this: Social scientists estimate the number of prison beds needed for the next generation by the number of children who cannot read grade level by third grade. This statistic leads some of us to propose radical steps. Some say communities should just get out of public education altogether. Privatize schools. Run it like a business, they argue.
But if we abandon public education, yet others might propose opting out of fire and police protection. Public institutions serve the public good and make us a unique community. Fire stations, police departments and, yes, schools are all necessary for survival as a community and a nation. The decision now is do we invest in schools or prisons?
Waco voters have a pivotal chance to make a difference in where our community invests. Waco Independent School District students and teachers need voters’ help. We need you to vote “yes” on both the tax ratification and homestead exemption proposals on the Nov. 3 ballot.
In August, the Waco ISD board of trustees raised the maintenance and operation tax rate 13 cents, from $1.04 per $100 of property valuation to $1.17. This must be approved by the voters. At the same time, the board lowered the debt service rate from 31 cents per $100 of property valuation to 23 cents. Net result: a 5-cent tax increase per $100 tax valuation. A nickel. This measure will not affect senior citizens’ tax bills. And it will not affect anyone with a home valued under 314,000.
This shift will bring an extra $8.2 million to Waco ISD. Of that, approximately $3 million will come from state coffers. For every $100 we invest in our classrooms, the state matches it with an additional $57. Put another way, every year Waco ISD doesn’t do this, we leave $3 million on the table in Austin.
Every penny will go to classroom needs — teacher salaries, special “re-set” classrooms for kids who need to re-think their behavior and programs at the high-school level that improve college and career readiness. Most funds will be spent on teachers in the lower grades so we can give struggling young readers the support they desperately need.
Waco ISD is holding town-hall meetings to share this idea with voters, including what we assume will be a major one at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the University High School cafeteria. Please find out more about how this will help our community.
We all say our community cares deeply about children. Economic growth depends on a literate workforce. Quality of life is grounded in literacy. The life or death of our community rests in the education we provide for our young citizens. We cannot leave this work undone another day. Vote yes to the tax ratification proposal and yes for the children of our community and their teachers.
Longtime civic leader and restaurateur Mary Duty is a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Cesar Chavez Middle School.