I read with some interest the letter to the editor from Luke Distelhorst and the associated replies. Throughout the replies, I noticed a couple of common themes.
Those voters that were going to vote against the levy gave specific reasons for their opposition. By and large, they were dissatisfied with the performance of the school district over the past several years and especially through the pandemic. Another subset of voters opposed to the levy indicated they felt that there were other options that have come to fruition and are able to offer a better educational outcome than the school district.
By and large the theme of the responses to those voters that are supporting levy were that those voters opposing the levy are “voting against our children” or questioning why anyone who cares for the role of education in our community would vote against this? Others still felt that those that oppose the levy were going to be punishing the kids of our city for the political policies of the school board.
Just over a decade ago, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes said that Netflix was not even on the radar screen in terms of competition. Quite clearly, he underestimated the significant shifts in consumer preferences for obtaining entertainment. In fact, in early 2000, Netflix founders offered to sell the company to Blockbuster for $50 million. Blockbuster turned them down.
I think we all know how that saga turned out. Netflix is clearly the market leader and Blockbuster is extinct. The purpose of this analogy is to illustrate that worked well in the past may not be the best solution for the present and future.
I would encourage those voters that are supporting the levy to look at the research and that what other models; private, religious and charter schools are doing.
It may be time to look at an approach to funding education that provides and empowers parents by giving them a voucher to allow them to select the most appropriate school for their child.
We have selection in every other aspect of our lives, we choose whether to have cable, satellite or streaming entertainment. We can buy hamburgers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s or Dick’s. We can choose to buy electric cars, gasoline powered cars or hybrid cars. Why does it appear that so many people are threatened by competition in the educational system?
The discussion should focus on the relative outcomes of the various educational options that are available to students in our community. If some of the nonpublic options have better outcomes then our collective community responsibility is to find out how to make those schools accessible to the maximum number of children.
Personally, I like the idea of choice whether it be for my entertainment, food or children’s education. A voucher system would level the playing field so that all families, regardless of income, could take advantage of the most suitable educational option for their child.
In conclusion, to the supporters of the levy, I encourage you to rally your fellow voters to support you. But at the same time, I ask that you do not characterize those that do not share your opinion as “voting against our children.” I don’t think that is a fair or accurate statement nor is it helpful to community dialogue regarding our schools.
John A. McDonald