Thursday, July 25, 2024

OPINION: Students: Without support our schools fail

To the Readers of the Coeur d’Alene Press,

Education is often hailed as the great equalizer, providing people with the tools they need to succeed in their personal and professional lives. However, the recent failure of our district's two levies will result in significant cuts to our public educational institutions, depriving students of the necessary resources to pursue their dreams. The diversity of our schools, which is currently offering students a plethora of extracurricular activities and elective programs to explore their interests, is now being severely compromised. The loss of these programs will have a far-reaching impact on our students, depriving them of the opportunities they need to reach their full potential. For instance, the student who has been actively involved in theater since their freshman year will no longer have the chance to explore their artistic interests. Similarly, the student-athlete who aspires to play at the Division I level will find their chances significantly reduced due to the lack of games. Moreover, the student interested in Career Technical Education will be unable to pursue the career they once had a chance to. These losses are not only significant in terms of individual growth and development, but also signify a setback to the quality of education we can offer to our community’s students. By rejecting the levy, we are not choosing fiscal responsibility; instead, we are compelling our students to abandon their passions.

In light of the March 14 election results, we would like to address the substantial amount of misinformation spread regarding what the supplemental levy entails. The primary focus of the levy is to provide our school district with the proper funding for teacher salaries, extracurriculars, technology, and other essentials for operation. Parts of our community have expressed concerns about the potential presence of a biological and presenting male in women's restrooms. This perceived issue could become even more prominent given the decreased number of campus security officers (CSOs) provided by the school district as a result of the levy continuing not to be passed. Following this path puts the jobs of a quarter of our current staff in jeopardy, including teachers, bus drivers, school nurses, CSOs, SROs, and other essential personnel. Sports such as football, basketball and baseball will receive less funding — therefore less games, reduced team sizes, worse equipment and less administration. Extracurriculars like theater, band, debate, art and many others will either be entirely discontinued or will have severely lessened contents. Very few students will be able to represent our community in major events such as district, state and national competitions. Lastly, if the levy continues to fail, our schools will face a shortage of technology and personal devices which play a crucial role in enabling schools to operate efficiently and effectively and are essential for students' learning and communication. One prime example of indispensable technology is the Chromebook. Students rely on Chromebooks daily to access online learning programs, complete homework assignments and take exams. Ensuring the availability of these essential tools is vital for fostering an engaging and productive learning environment. It’s imperative that we still have these opportunities for us students to prosper, have freedom and become educated for the future.

While there are concerns over taxes being raised due to the passing of the perpetual supplemental levy (about $110 in taxes for $550K of taxable property), there is promising news; a bill is likely to pass in the Idaho Legislature, which will allocate $100 million from the state sales tax fund (without raising taxes) to all Idaho school districts based on attendance, specifically to cover bond and levy payments for citizens. This means that if both the levy and the bill pass, Coeur d'Alene families and homeowners would not face any property tax increases. It would give our community the chance to help our youth without extra costs. It is important to remember that the levy would provide the Coeur d'Alene School District with the remaining 25% of its base funding. This money is essential for the proper functioning of our schools. Currently, the Coeur d'Alene School District operates with less money than almost any other comparable district in the country. Ranking 51st in the nation, Idaho's average funding per student is $9,114, and the Coeur d'Alene School District receives even less than that, with only $8,311.54 allocated per student. This lack of funding significantly impacts the quality of education our students receive, including access to safe schools, diverse elective options, adequate classrooms and essential services such as school nurses. By not passing the levy, the Coeur d'Alene community is sending a clear message that they value a small, potentially nonexistent tax increase over the substantial benefits of a well-funded education system provided to our students. The potential harm to our futures as students, and consequently, the city's future, far surpass any expenses associated with a modest property tax increase.

In solidarity with our devoted teachers and staff, we’re planning a walk-out on March 24, the Friday before spring break. We will walk out at 2:05 p.m., 25 minutes before Lake City’s school day ends; each minute symbolizes a loss of $1 million, or 1% of the budget. It’s important to note that this walkout is not meant to show that our education is unnecessary, nor that we are ungrateful for what we have. Instead, it is to demonstrate that there is no point in education with no support from our community. We cannot have a complete, well-rounded education without the additional funding the supplemental levy would bring us, and we, the students, know this to be true. We will demonstrate our collective agreement upon this by walking on Friday. We invite CHS, Venture, and all other schools in our district to stand with us by participating in a walk-out at their own campuses March 24 at 2:05 p.m.

We ask that all members of our community consider the repercussions of this outcome. We ask you to remember the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the youth who call this county home. The hopes of the student pursuing theater as their passion, the basketball player with dreams of greater things and the students looking for a future in technical education. A school system that is not supported by its students, teachers, AND wider community is doomed to fail. We already have the students and the teachers; all we need is you.

• • •

Zach Anderson, grade 11; Nathan Edmonds, grade 11; Bradley Gilmore, grade 11; Rowen Lair, grade 10; and Luke Sharon, grade 11 are all Kootenai County residents who attend Lake City High School.