As we’re coming into the home stretch before the Kuna levy vote, we supporters are feeling really grateful. When the vote to continue our supplemental levy first failed, by fewer than 100 votes, we had people telling us that it might be a blessing in disguise. While we sure didn’t feel that way at first, after several weeks of hard work we’re actually coming around to agreeing with that way of thinking.
Nothing makes you appreciate what you have more than the thought that you might lose it. And the thought that we might lose what we have that has made Kuna schools special has galvanized a lot of us to make phone calls, go door-to-door, attend community events, write letters to the editor, talk to our neighbors, and, most of all, articulate what it is about Kuna schools and educating our children that we value and that is important to us.
The past few weeks have also given us the opportunity to come face-to-face with some of the people who opposed the levy and to hear their concerns. And we’ve found out that for a number of issues, we’re not all that far apart.
We agree – patrons in the school district should not have to be making up the difference between what the state provides and what is required to provide our children with the “general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools” called for in the Idaho Constitution. Unfortunately, the state is not living up to its responsibility in that area. But Kuna is hardly alone; 94 out of the state’s 115 districts – and all the districts in the Treasure Valley – are using supplemental levies to help bridge the gap. Voting the levy down won’t change that.
We also agree that there may be efficiencies that could be found in the school budget. Perhaps it is true that outsourcing transportation, food service, and janitorial might save the district money. Will it save $3.19 million per year? Not likely. Frankly, it’s difficult for us to believe that outsourcing these functions to a private firm — which needs to be able to make a profit — can save money over the district itself, which doesn’t. However, we urge the school district to study all the costs of such outsourcing and come back to the patrons with a report.
What we don’t agree with, however, is the opposition’s contention that the district should cut the budget by 11 percent and then try to find a way to make up the gap. We are concerned that the damage caused by such cuts would be too great, not just for the two years covered by the levy, but for the years following, as Kuna loses its experienced teachers, some of whom have been with the district for decades.
Sadly, some Kuna teachers and staff, not able to face the budget uncertainty, have already made the difficult decision to leave the district. The high school band teacher, quoted in newspaper articles just last week and praised for doubling the size of the band in two years, is leaving. The high school choir teacher, who took up the slack after the previous choir teacher had to leave mid-semester and who put on an amazing production of Pirates of Penzance, is leaving. The high school football coach, who took the team to one of its best seasons ever and dealt with not one but two serious medical conditions among his team members, turning them into spiritual teachable moments? He’s leaving as well. And those are just some of the ones we’ve heard about so far.
We hear members of the opposition say they are voting against the levy “on principle.” That somehow the district will “find a way.” That “the magic will happen,” as if all we have to do is clap really hard.
Yes, if the levy is voted down, the district will “find a way,” because it has to. But what about the magic? In Kuna schools, the magic is already happening, right now. We’re working to pass the levy because we want the magic to keep happening, for our kids, for our schools, and for our community.
Please vote yes on May 20.