Residents of Klamath County get ready. Your omniscient County School Board is about to ask you to foot the bill for a $30 million bond measure come this Spring. The stated purpose will be for capital improvements to county schools. You will be told that if you care about our rural school system, if you care about our children getting a good education, then you'll sacrifice just this once so the wee ones have a chance in life. However, should you have any objection whatsoever, you will be labeled an anti-education imbecile. In other words, those who oppose borrowing this amount of money are ignorant, heartless fools and should be ashamed of themselves for even thinking such horrible thoughts.
That's what you'll be told. That's what you'll be sold. But is it true?
Questions To Ask
The first question that comes to mind is how did we get here? Whoops! Sorry, we're not supposed to ask that question, let alone think it. You're supposed to assume our county school district spends every penny they receive wisely and judiciously. There is never any waste. All financial decisions — especially salaries for administrators and contracts with unions — is for the benefit of the children. Now, if you believe any of this, then I have some beachfront property in Wyoming I'd like to sell you.
Were not funds set aside each year for repairs and such capital expenses? How did county schools pile up a $30 million project list? Such a list couldn't have happened overnight, and so the first question goes to those in charge. How did school officials not see these things coming? Can they show us why they didn't save for the future? Can they tell us how they take in roughly $10,000 per student each year and yet didn't save a dime for anything on the $30 million to do list? To put it simply, shouldn't we first be questioning the competence of a County School Board that, all of sudden, brings us a crisis that requires county residents reach into our pockets to pay back a $30 million loan?
The second question is what is the primary goal of any education system? Answer: to educate students. Therefore, how exactly does $30 million translate into achieving this goal? Will these repairs, fixes and nice new shiny things mean better grades? Are we going to see math scores improve on average by a full grade? How about reading skills? What about science and technology? Will all test scores improve whatever magnitude $30 million is supposed to buy? The obvious answer is there is no direct correlation. Just because there may be an occasional leaky roof in a classroom, this doesn't translate into a worse education. If that were true, then we should expect the average test scores at Triad or Hosanna or any home school child to be far, far worse then the average grades found in our county school system. I seriously doubt that Klamath county private and home schools have spent anything close to $30 million on capital expenses — in order to improve the education of their students. I also doubt county school administrators want us to suggest comparing private and county school grades either.
But I Want to Support Our Schools
Maybe this is you. Maybe you want to support our schools and want our children to get the best education possible. Therefore you believe the only way to do that is to vote yes on any request a school board makes. Don't be fooled. The real way to "help our schools" is to demand more accountability for where all our money has gone over the past 20 years. Remember it was just two years ago that the state of Oregon passed ballot measures 66 & 67. Both measures were specifically for education and were to ensure we would fix the problems in funding education. And the bond measure we will see this Spring will have the exact same promise. And in two years there will be another measure for education. This will continue year after year, request after request unless we say no and demand answers to our questions.
If you want to help our schools, then volunteer your time or donate a skill. If you feel so compelled give more money to the school of your choice — for whatever reason. That is what a free nation is all about. But don't make others do the same. Free people are to be free, not coerced. Don't use the heavy hand of government to force others to dump more money into a system that is broken.
Our public schools receive plenty of money. Money is not the problem. The problem is how the money is managed and spent. And until that is fixed, we will continue to be taxed and taxed and taxed and yet the problem will never be solved.
Some might call that insanity... and they'd be right.