PHIL WIELAND: Why Boone voters might be down on the levy

2013-07-26T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Why Boone voters might be down on the levyBy Phil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

I feel sorry for MSD of Boone Township Schools Superintendent George Letz.

He lost a school levy in May by four lousy votes, and now he has to cut staff and programs to avoid a big deficit. But that's not why I feel sorry for Letz.

It's tough enough convincing voters to approve spending more money for schools, especially when most of them don't have children in the schools. It apparently is even tougher in a rural area like Boone Township, which might have more cows than people. I have some experience with this.

In my previous life, I lived in a rural county in Ohio, where referendums were the only way to get new funding for schools, whether for operations or building. I recall it was not unusual to put an issue on the ballot eight or 10 times before it passed.

By that time, they had to start all over again in a constant battle to keep up with the baby boomers. Those boomers are now the senior citizens who traditionally make up the most reliable segment of the voting population.

Many are also among the least likely to vote for a levy. It has a lot to do with living on what is called a fixed income, although mostly you are broke. And nobody likes paying more taxes for anything, even schools.

So there's Letz and the School Board having to cut six teachers, whole sections of business, English and social studies, reducing health/physical education and eliminating the Family and Consumer Science Department.

The hours for classroom aides, librarians and custodians were reduced and, possibly the unkindest cut of all, three Boone elementary grade levels will be overcrowded with 27 to 28 kids in a class while the aides for those classes will work fewer hours.

For parents used to their kids having class sizes of 25 or less, it might sound like the end of the world. To senior citizens who grew up during the peak baby boomer years of the 1950s and 1960s, a class with 27 or 28 kids sounds like it is half empty.

For boomers, a classroom aide was our parents, who, when we got home, told us to get our homework done before we watched TV, if we had a TV, or did chores. An "instructional aid" was the paddle carried by the principal for slackers.

The kind of cuts Letz is talking about probably sound to many seniors like something that is long overdue, just fancy fringe benefits that weren't needed when they were in school. Boomers paid taxes for their own kids and don't want to keep paying for someone else's to be mollycoddled with aides and unneeded classes.

No, I don't envy Letz's job. He lost by only four votes, so he might not have to try 10 more times to pass it. It might only take six or eight.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

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