Guest Editorial on Measure C
By Barbara Jaquez, Community Citizen and Resource Teacher, Loyalton High School
“Upon the subject of education, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.
”--Abraham Lincoln, March 9, 1832 First Political Announcement
Many people see our local schools as a separate body, apart from themselves. As an individual, they exist on one side of a long, white chalk line. Our schools reside on the opposite, as if independent, a separate presence, or a business. Fallacious! Local, public schools are the obligation and the responsibility of the public community.
Free education, education for ALL... not just for the historically privileged, costs money. Public schools are funded through public funding. Our schools are not safe, not sound, and do not comply with the Williams Act
, and Fire Marshall mandates. If Measure C fails, money WILL be spent from an insufficient general fund, RESULTING in the loss of much needed community jobs and programs for children. And no, there is no other adequate source of revenue, despite current rumor.
Our community schools must and do endeavor to meet the needs of ALL students. Your schools do not turn children or families away. Your schools serve children with physical, emotional, and mental disabilities, those who are extremely gifted and those who are learning challenged. Your schools, our schools, must provide a sound and safe environment. Our country has a proud history of American activists who fought hard for educational access, so that your children, my children, all children would be insured their dreams, and opportunities, once allowed to only few.
There was a day, when grandmother and son, wives and children, headed out in wooden wagons, on tiring trails, to build a new life, to build better opportunities, and a new community. The community, wanting to educate their local population, dug deep within dirty, and surely well-worn pockets to find money,.. money to hire a teacher, and to build a school. Each community member was not just obligated, they were proud to participate in its production.
My immigrant born grandparents never dreamed of going to college, they were lucky to finish high school. After all, they had to work to support their families, including brothers and sisters. With generations, perseverance, and yes... money, education in our country has become commonplace. Perhaps, its availability is taken for granted. We are very privileged.
My letter is not meant to promote religion, as I respect that some have no interest, or belief, in God, but I found myself reflecting in Church a couple Sundays back, after a keen homily. This destitute widow, a biblical heroine, gave her last pennies to Jesus (Mark 12:41-44). She was obligatory, but so heart-felt. Metaphorically, she gave her whole life. Ultimately, the point made was not about evil riches, nor that being poor makes one’s charity more valuable. It was about heart-felt giving, our responsibility, and our obligation, as Christians, or as members of a community body, to give back from the resources from which we have been so blessed, whether they are few, or great. I think, we also see the ability to make great and amazing things out of small gifts. Here we are, 2000 years later, still marveling over an offering of two pennies.
I do not want to minimize the grief and struggles of those who are truly going through hard times. Truly, there are hardships. But, as a country and community we have been blessed with so much (if you can call it that), if not spoiled. Trust me, I am NOT against comforts. But, we have big screens, flat screens, Black Berries and cell phones, multi cars, second homes, breweries and wine tastings, vacations, a few cigarettes, road toys, and -- well I could go on. A bomb did not go off across the street; it was boys playing safely. Did you sleep with an open window last night? Personally, I have eaten more than I should. It shows.
On numerous occasions, from my Sunday pew, without a pause, I have slipped open a flatly pressed and tidy, second collection envelope, sealing in those few extra dollars. The monies will build third world schools, and support impoverished children. It is a good cause! Who can argue?
So, I ask, might our OWN children, within our own homes, living next door, or right down the way, (you know, the babies swimming in the creek) be a good cause? Why hesitate? Can we not reach into our purses and slip a few dollars to our own? This “own”… it is not just children and students; it is the “domino community” we call home.
The investment gained by Measure C will result in the continuation of community jobs, more local dollars being spent locally.. supporting local businesses, some of which are surviving by a thread. Measure C will result in the improvement of property values, attractive growth possibilities, and more work for local contractors. Dollars invested from Measure C produce in a positive a “domino effect.” And, it is not simply about children; it is about all the others who invest their time, their resources, their homes, and their lives in Sierra and Plumas Counties. If local is the target, Measure C hits bulls-eye.
Children are the future of our nation. Their development affects all of us. An educated population is the cornerstone of democracy. National and community well-being depend on the decisions of its educated, informed citizens. Good education is not cheap, but ignorance costs far more. Public education is a worthy investment for public funds. We can invest now, or we can pay later.
Education, in reality, reduces costs to taxpayers. For every dollar spent to keep a child in school, the future costs of welfare, prison, and intervention services are reduced. It can cost less to educate a child now than to later support a teenage parent or a repeat offender. Education monies secure the future of all citizens. Our country pays a high price for poorly educated workers. When retraining and remediation are needed to prepare a worker to do even simple tasks, both employers and consumers pay the cost. Prices are raised on consumer products. (Illinois Coalition for Public Education, June 1994)
For now, I will give up a soda or two. Yes, I no longer have children (of school age). Retirement is down a short tunnel. But, I have taken. I am a public consumer. I confess, I have taken from this community all that I can. I have savored its scenic beauty, drank in its rivers, sponged the hospitality of my neighbors and friends, and.. I have enjoyed its schools with all they have provided. Amazing things can happen from a few small gifts. I for one am proud to give back.