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Did you go?

I didn’t see very many of you at the two meetings held in Peabody during the past week to inform you about what might be in your future as a constituent of the 70th legislative district and USD 398. Actually, I took names so that when the complaining and moaning starts at the coffee shops I will know who bothered to show up to listen to those in-the-know as opposed to those who already consider themselves to be an authority on the issues.

Really, you should have gone. You might be feeling somewhat better about what your elected officials have in store for us all in the years to come. The outlook isn’t 100 percent rosy, but then when did any of us ever think that? The news was better than I expected and if what Superintendent Rex Watson and Rep. Bob Brookens said is true (and I assume it is), then we all are going to have to make some sacrifices, but we knew that, didn’t we?

I was pleased to hear Watson say that (for this year at least and possibly next) we are in better shape than many of our neighboring school districts. We have not maxed out our local option budget, there is some money that was set aside by previous school boards during “good” years, and earlier cuts and cost saving measures have proved helpful. Our school board does not seem to be interested in cutting more programs or positions, Watson said. Good for them.

Neither Watson nor Rep. Brookens anticipates countywide or regional consolidation of our schools any time in the near future. Are there going to be higher costs for education? Yes. And that is not the fault of your local school board. It is the fault of your state and federal governments for not providing the funding our national Congress and the constitution of Kansas requires them to provide. If you default on your tax obligation, the punishment will be severe and swift. However, the state and federal governments have either defaulted for years on their obligation to fund education programs or cut the funding they did put in place, and no one seems to care.

Well, shoot, I haven’t complained to anyone who can do anything about it, have you? We should do better.

For now we could be in worse straights over education. One day we may be. We are being squeezed, but we are not yet being choked to death.

Are you worried about how the state is going to pay the bills in the coming years? You should be. Cuts have been made, not only to education, but to nursing homes, mental health, municipalities, counties, highways, wildlife and parks, commerce, Medicaid, and everything else for which the state assumes some fiscal responsibility.

Brookens said he anticipates a one-half cent increase in sales tax and an increase in taxes on tobacco and alcohol products.

Can you live with that? If you say no, my first impulse is to chastise you for not being among the 24 people on hand to hear him, offer your opinion, and ask questions. But chastised or not, you still have time to get in touch with him and let him know what you CAN live with. Here is a second chance to have your say.

One brief aside on the group of people that showed up to hear Watson’s presentation about our school district. Of the three dozen in the audience, only seven were parents. The rest of us were senior citizens … or at least community members who already have raised our children.

Where were the moms and dads of the district? Where were the folks who always claim to be “concerned about our youth?” Where were the patrons who worry about “losing our school?” Where were you?

— Susan Marshall

Last modified March 17, 2010

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