Thursday, March 27, 2008

Making an angry taxpayer out of me

I just got a phone call that set my blood boiling. It had to do with school politics in our town, which just couldn't be more messed up. The schools are overcrowded, and people are pretty much doing backflips to keep from acknowledging that because they don't want to pay more taxes.

There are kids having classes in closets, in hallways, in the cafeteria; my daughter had resource room in the media center, because when you're struggling with a subject, you for sure want everybody walking through the library to see you do it. And we have people claiming that the way you see if a school's overcrowded is divide the number of square feet by the number of students. They're advocating putting up screens to divide classrooms in half so as to maximize all that wasted space. Never mind whether students can hear the particular lesson they're getting, you know?

Now, my feeling on this is, objectively, we need new school space. But if you don't want to pay the taxes, fine, I get it. Taxes are high. But you then give up your right to complain about test scores. You want to consider schools to be sardine cans that, if you try hard enough, you can cram a few more sardines into, great. But don't gripe if kids can't learn.

So it is in that context that a call came to my house at 8:45 p.m., a time when I'm already, off the bat, going to be defensive toward junk calls. Somebody with an accent not from around here announced that he was taking a survey of taxpayers in our town, and asked a question this way: "Are you aware that taxes have been going up while test scores are going down, and given that, how likely are you to support the school budget that is coming up for a vote?"

That's not a survey question. That's an editorial. And I know exactly the segment of our citizenry it's coming from. The sardine-pushers. Who apparently have money to pay some company to take a survey, but not to give kids decent classrooms.

I gave that poor out-of-towner an earful and slammed the phone down. And now my heart is beating fast and I'm all grouchy. I keep saying I'm not going to let local politics get to me, because it's stupid and it's always been stupid and it always will be, and I just need to get my kids through school and out.

But the answer is: Very likely to support the budget. Very, extremely likely. Because schools are important. Because band uniforms are in that budget, and my daughter's uniform is so worn out it's splitting across the behind. Because the tanking test scores have more to do with the badness of the tests than the poorness of the teaching, and if you think otherwise you are only going to make it worse. And because, if you're calling my house at quarter to nine trying to stir up trouble, you are only going to make me more eager to vote against you.


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