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The school board must craft an affordable plan for the bond
By MARYROSE ASHER
For The Beachcomber
At a time when Seattle is forced to close schools due to the economic crisis that the city and state are facing, property owners on Vashon are being asked to support a $75.5 million school bond to renovate the high school. With interest included for this 20-year bond, the total will come to $150 million for a community of just over 10,000 residents.
The demographics also show that the community is getting older, with the number of students expected to decrease over the coming years.
However, education is highly respected here as elsewhere and is one of those untouchable subjects to voice a dissenting opinion. True, many of the dissenters are those who don’t want to pay taxes or feel we are taxed enough. My position is different.
There is no doubt Vashon High School has problems — outdated classrooms and a leaky gymnasium, for example. But the school board has also decided to add a second gym, additional parking (at a time when we should be encouraging less driving), artificial turf for the sports field and a renovated grandstand. The question is whether this additional cost correspondingly adds value to the basic education of the students.
Now, here’s where the “unspinning” comes in: Not everyone who votes against a school bond is against education or a “bad” person. Those of us working in the peace community would like our country to move away from a war economy to a peace economy.
If we truly believe this, should we support the high price tag of this particular school bond? In my opinion, to do so would in essence be saying, “It doesn’t matter how bad the economy is, how many may be losing their jobs or having their homes foreclosed, we are going to go ahead and give our community the best money can buy.” Instead of demanding more from our government in the way of better education and health care for all its citizens, as just two examples, we say, “That’s OK. We, as individuals, will pick up the slack.” By doing so, how can we expect our government to reprioritize its spending?
No one wants to see our school infrastructure resembling a Third World country. However, there is a price to pay for the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan ($2.4 trillion by 2017) and an era of Wall Street executives seeking profits with little regard to risk and Congress not exerting regulatory scrutiny nor demanding accountability.
The global economy is collapsing, and economists are saying we won’t see a quick turnaround. As of March 2008, 30 percent of Americans said the economic slowdown was forcing them to cut back on food, medicine and other daily necessities.
According to a report from Global Research, there will be a new tipping point in March 2009, “when the world will become aware that this crisis is worse than the 1930s crisis.”
I would like Green Party members, peace activists, environmentalists, all those working for a better tomorrow, to ask themselves, “Do I believe by continuing to support a broken system that I am exerting the influence necessary to exact change?”
When we are given the opportunity to make a statement, such as with this school bond, we need to think about the broader implications.
Only when faced with a crumbling infrastructure and the realization that we are at the end of an era of having everything we want will people take more of an interest in the kind of government they have.
War spending is way out of proportion to that in other countries, and we need an outrage here in this country. Facing the reality that we need to maintain the schools we have and not have the luxury to do better may wake our neighbors to take action.
Ask the school board to come back with a cost more in line with today’s economy or to defer this bond until there is less economic uncertainty.
— Maryrose Asher is a former chair of the Green Party of Washington State and originally wrote this column for “Greener Times.”