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Times are changing

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The nickel will push our county and its students forward for generations

Change is inevitable.
Change can be difficult.
Change can also be a very good thing.
But, there is a certain comfort in keeping things the same. It’s a paradox, really. Many are resistant to change, but change is the only way we can grow, the only way we can advance.
And there is one inevitable truth: change happens whether we want it to or not.
Take Marion County Public Schools, for instance.
Each building, each facility once stood as a beacon of change. Each structure stood for progress. But, as the years have gone by, the needs of our students have changed as well. Places like Calvary Elementary, Lebanon Elementary and Marion County High School have served their purpose, but now symbolize a resistance to change. That resistance was on full display in 2008 when more than half of Marion County voters voted against the nickel. As a result, the schools have basically remained the same.
The longer we have to wait to make changes to our school facilities, the more crowded they will become. The libraries will get even smaller as more students pile in. As technology advances, students are going to have to try even harder to keep up.
Maybe change isn’t what bothers you. Perhaps it’s really about the money. It’s possible that you hear the word “tax” and it automatically makes you angry. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nobody wants more taxes. But you have to look at the truth.
We’re talking about five cents per $100 on property. That’s $50 per year for property that is worth $100,000. On top of that, the school board has agreed to not raise taxes for the next three years if the nickel passes. However, if it doesn’t pass, they will be forced to raise taxes just to keep patching the schools here and there. You will eventually be paying more if the nickel doesn’t pass. Voting against the nickel also means the schools can’t receive millions of dollars in state-matching funds. (All of which can only be used for facilities, mind you.)
There have been some suggestions about other ways the school system could raise the money for facilities.
One Facebook user suggested selling candy bars to try and raise the money. That actually would work if you were able to sell approximately 1,500 candy bars at $2 to every single citizen of Marion County.
Others have suggested that students don’t need things like Chromebooks or the Dream Bus. If you removed Chromebooks from the high school and used that money toward facilities, you would have a whopping 0.6 percent of the funds that the nickel would provide. The Dream Bus would add 0.2 percent to that total.
Some say that the salaries of workers are too high. But even if it were possible for all school employees to work for free, the school system would be short around $12 million dollars.
Like two sides of a coin, there are two views of the recallable nickel tax. You’re either for it, or against it.
The Lebanon Enterprise tried to reach out to the petition committee in order to give them a chance to explain why they are essentially against the nickel. We wanted to know their suggestions for alternatives to passing the nickel while keeping our schools up-to-date.
Some of the questions we had for them were:
• Why do you oppose the nickel tax?
• In your opinion, are there facility issues that need to be addressed with Marion County Public Schools?
• If so, how do you think the schools are supposed to pay for the facility improvements?
We called each of the committee members and learned that none of them were willing to speak publicly about their views.
Richie Lee said, “No, I’m not interested. No.”
Robbie Shewmaker said he had no comment.
We called Darrel Shewmaker and reached his wife who said, “He didn’t [have a comment] the last time. They called way back two or three months ago and he said no comment.”
We also called Randall Lawson.
“We’ve got a couple of the other boys doing the talking for us,” he said. “Joe Livers, he’d be the one to call. There’s another boy, but I’m not for sure what his name is.”
So, we called Livers. We reached him twice and both times we tried to set up interviews. Livers expressed some concern about doing the interview, but ultimately decided to meet. The meeting never took place despite repeated calls to his cell phone.
The Enterprise called a known opponent to the nickel, who isn’t on the committee, Marvin Gardner. He said, “I’m not interested in making no comment at all.”
While the petition committee members have no comment, (which we think speaks for itself), we invite you to visit the students at our local schools, specifically Lebanon and Calvary elementary schools and Marion County High School. They have plenty to say. And while you’re there, talk to teachers and cafeteria staff. Go on a tour of the school and see for yourself. Also, talk to parents who don’t want their children attending a school that is so overcrowded they are forced to have class in the hallway or receive counseling sessions in a storage closet. Can you imagine trying to learn in a classroom that, during the winter, the temperature didn’t reach above 42 degrees? Or, consider how difficult it might be to concentrate while having class in the gym because the sewer backed up into your classroom sink.
Before going to the polls on Nov. 8, please talk to students, teachers, principals and parents. They want to be heard. They need to be heard. They deserve to be heard.
They want to tell you that change can be a good thing.
More than anything, they just want a place that functions well.
Students throughout Marion County have risen to the challenge with their test scores. Imagine what they would do if they had the facilities they need to foster their learning?
The nickel isn’t just a small tax. It’s an investment in the students we have now, and ultimately, an investment in our future.