While not everyone fully supported the final dollar amount, a group of individuals concerned about public education agreed that the Mountain Home School District needs to extend its current supplemental levy. Passed by voters two years ago, that $2.8 million request kept the district from making budget cuts that were nothing short of apocalyptic.
Even with that levy, what we saw back in 2010 and again in 2011 were painful for both students and educators. An award-winning video production department became an after-school club. An entire carpentry and wood shop that at one time turned out top-quality craftsmen is gone. Art classes at the elementary schools and the middle school also vanished with volunteers trying to fill that void.
At the same time, several teachers tenured their retirements or moved to other districts. Many of those who remained are now teaching core subjects versus classes that served to inspire teamwork, cooperation and leadership in our children that at one time allowed these youngsters to reach new levels of greatness.
Educators in the Mountain Home School District were asked to do a lot more with a lot less and miraculously made it all happen. They did it knowing that they wouldn't see an extra dollar in their paychecks unless they moved up the pay scale after working a set number of years (veteran teachers at the top of the scale haven't seen an extra dime in years).
On top of all that, no one saw any pay increases to help compensate for increased cost-of-living expenses while they simultaneously watched their insurance costs and out-of-pocket expenses spike.
There are few people in today's job market that would agree to the conditions these educators and administrators have had to deal with these past few years. We seriously doubt a factory worker would agree to working longer hours building more widgets and gadgets while watching their pay take a cut.
But this is exactly what we asked our teachers to accept, which most of them did.
At the same time, we've asked these teachers to not only take on more students in their classrooms, but we've asked them to teach more technical subjects with books that are horribly outdated or in terrible condition. Case in point: Textbooks in more than one classroom still show photos of the World Trade Center's twin towers, making those books at least 11 years old.
It's the technical aspects of teaching that present the challenges of future education here. During their meeting last week, members of the Blue Ribbon Commission got a healthy dose of education reality while they debated the district's budget options.
A video presentation at the start of last week's meeting illustrated these challenges. For example, the top 10 in-demand jobs in the United States today were not around eight years ago. This means that today's students will need to solve problems that we don't know exist yet.
Meanwhile, the amount of emerging technology developed around the world doubles every two years. Simply put, the things that students learn in their freshman year of college will likely be obsolete by their junior year.
To meet tomorrow's challenges means giving our students -- our sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters -- the tools they will need to meet the high-tech world they will inherit in a just few short years.
The school levy is a good start. While it doesn't give these students every tool they'll need, it does allow them to maintain the same level of learning they've adjusted to despite the limited dollars available to further their learning.
Here's something to consider: The proposed levy won't increase people's property taxes one dime. It's actually less than the current $2.8 million levy, so it's doubtful that it'll cause people to experience any new hardships.
At the same time, those who dispute the teaching ability of our educators in the Mountain Home School District should spend some time at the back of a classroom and watch these men and women at work.
We think they'll be pleasantly surprised at what they'll see.
-- Brian S. Orban