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Letter to the Editor - from Diana Windley

Article Date: 
10 May, 2013 (All day)

I’m voting in favor of the Voted Local Levy for Morgan County on June 25. The levy is a tax that will generate funds to benefit students who are educated by Morgan School District.
In the first year of the levy, the school board will assess a total of $350,000 from home, business and land owners. However, the school board can lawfully assess up to $1.3 million annually from taxpayers. The board has stated it is their intent to keep the assessment at $350k, yet there is no guarantee. We simply cannot look into a crystal ball and determine every cost and expenditure in the future. I believe the school board will remain conservative in their requests and govern their stewardship with integrity.
In community meetings and in newspaper editorials, citizens have commented that the school district should operate more like a business to reduce costs. While this may make sense on the surface, it’s not that simple. You cannot manage a public sector organization like a private business. There are too many federal and state legislatively-mandated issues in public education. They are two different animals.
There has also been public criticism about the compensation offered to board members. The meager compensation package is consistent with school districts across Utah. Consider that board members spend 20+ hours each month creating/reviewing policies, managing budgets, ensuring the district is in compliance with legislative requirements, and discussing issues with their constituents. Since the beginning of 2013, the school board has held more than 30 meetings! If we want to attract qualified candidates to board positions, a small token of appreciation is well-justified. 
I have two daughters who attend Mountain Green Elementary. They are surrounded by dedicated teachers and staff. Why would I short-change the people who spend seven hours each day with my girls? These educators need a teaching environment with smaller class sizes and greater resources. Gratefully, we have a team of community volunteers who donate hundreds of hours each week in our classrooms. But these volunteers do not replace professional teachers and service providers who have been educated, trained and certified to educate our children. Good teachers are the key to high test scores and graduation rates. And make no mistake, good teachers are in high demand. They will leave Morgan to better support their families in competing school districts with more generous compensation packages, smaller classroom sizes, and greater resources. 
Families that value education choose to live in Morgan for more than the scenery and clean air…they live here for the schools. To maintain the strength of our community, we need to maintain the quality of our educational system. If test scores and graduation rates decline, the desirability of living in Morgan will decrease. The domino effect will have economic impacts far beyond the dollars assessed with the levy.
As parents and responsible citizens, we should look for opportunities to give our children the best educational experience possible. As a community, we have reached the point of diminishing returns for cutting corners and trimming budgets.
Please join me in supporting the Voted Local Levy by casting your ballot on June 25.
~ Diana Windley, 
Mountain Green