To the editor:
This year the school districts in our county, and our state government, are forced to take a tough look at budgets because of the country’s economic situation.
In the media, there are comments made that people are against our school systems. I think that in general, the population in our state isn’t against our school systems or against providing a good education for our children. I think our state population in general is fiscally responsible, conservative, and wants to be able to afford what we can offer.
In the business world, we see cycles of good times and not so good times. There can be a cycle of two to three years where money is tight, and we have to make the best decisions possible. That means cutting budgets, just as the government has to do in this cycle. One can either complain, or look at it in an optimistic view. These are typically short cycles, that make you understand what is important, what services are truly providing service, what areas are just extras.
In business, that may mean waiting a few years to update computers, computer operating systems, waiting a few years to purchase the next edition of Microsoft Word (or doing without a few of the updates). It may mean in business that there are some things we learn to live without for a few years, and when the economy re-adjusts, we may find that we gave up something that was not really needed.
I went to Centre schools in the 1980’s when farming was in a severe recession. At that time in that rural school district, money was hard to come by, so each dollar had to be used judiciously. As kids, we really didn’t know any better about what wasn’t being offered. It was just the way it was.
Some of the things our school district had to do at that time to stay fiscally solvent:
- Junior high sports practices were held during physical education class during school. Being in a rural district, it was too expensive to drive in every night to pick up kids, and it was too expensive for the school district to provide extra buses to send those kids home after practice.
- Few events were offered over the weekends.
- Each class had one field trip a year. It was too expensive to provide fuel and staff to go somewhere, especially when the school was located out of town. It made the yearly field trip a very special thing for us as kids. Thus, I think we appreciated it more.
- Our eighth-grade field trip was to Hutchinson, and we got a day off from school to do so. We thought that was great and special.
- Textbooks were a sacred and expensive commodity. We signed them out at the first of the year, and our families had to pay for them if we didn’t return them. Our school couldn’t afford to replace them more than every five to 10 years, and that was just the way it was.
- Paper copies at that time were expensive, so teachers did that judiciously.
- School didn’t start until after Labor Day, because many schools did not have air-conditioners. Air-conditioning was too expensive to the budget, so the calendar year was set appropriately. In the wintertime, 6:30 a.m. practice started in a cold gym, so the district didn’t have such a large heating bill.
- Uniforms were expensive, checked out, and returned like textbooks. Our warm-ups for basketball were the same ones used in the 1970’s with bell bottom pants!
These are examples that I can remember, I am sure there are more. I thought my education was fine, I was still able to go to a four-year university just out of high school and succeed, and I think that is an indication of a successful education program.
I wished we would have been able to have college courses offered in high school, but I still did fine. I wish I could have afforded nicer basketball shoes, but my feet are fine.
I know many that went to my school went on to do neat things, so we must have done fine. I think that budget cuts are never fun, but they are a learning experience to everyone involved.
I think that we still need to appreciate all the gifts of life that we enjoy, and appreciate that we live in a community where people do look out for each other, where kids are safe on the streets, where our kids successfully graduate from high school, and where we can influence our kids in a positive way.
Veterinarian Jessica Laurin