In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to write this column. In a perfect world, you would instead be reading the accounts of my family’s recent camping misadventures, including stories about the hideous noises coming from under the hood of our 19-year-old Chevy Suburban, a non-functioning camper furnace, and a relaxing three-mile hike on Taum Sauk Mountain that turned into a grueling seven-mile-long ordeal that precipitated a conversation about my son Truman and cannibalism.
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to write yet another piece asking you to vote for tax increases that will support the rapidly growing SoBoCo school district. In a perfect world, Missouri legislators would recognize the importance of adequately funding public education rather than forcing local communities to foot the majority of the bill. In a perfect world, the good people of Southern Boone County would not have to vote to increase their own property taxes in order to provide our children with proper school facilities and well-qualified teachers.
We do not live in a perfect world. Yet we do have the power to make it better. By supporting the school tax measures on the April 2nd ballot, we will give the young people of our community an opportunity to continue receiving the high-quality education they deserve and the tools they will need to become successful adults.
If the ballot measures pass, seventeen new classrooms will be added to the Primary School, including four to accommodate early childhood classes currently housed at the Middle School. Money will be earmarked for hiring additional teachers as well. By voting to pay down the district’s debt faster, a no-tax-increase plan to alleviate overcrowding in the Elementary and Middle Schools in 2021 and a no-tax-increase plan to expand the High School in 2025 will be possible.
Should these measures fail to pass, one of the fastest growing and most highly-acclaimed school districts in the state of Missouri will face a serious crisis. As classrooms become overcrowded, teachers will be forced to spend more and more of their instruction time managing disruptive behaviors, making sure hungry students have enough to eat, and providing extra support for a growing number of struggling learners. All of this will leave precious little time for the rest of the students who deserve one-on-one attention from their teachers, too.
The fastest growing community in Missouri is expanding at its rapid pace for two reasons. One, Ashland is conveniently situated halfway between Columbia and Jefferson City—towns with jobs in higher education, healthcare, government, manufacturing, and retail. And two, Ashland has excellent schools. The majority of folks who have moved to Southern Boone County within the last twenty years did so for one or both of those reasons. If you count yourself among that demographic, then I implore you to do your part to help the children who live here.
If your family has lived in this area for generations, you may not be terribly fond of the housing boom. I don’t blame you. When I moved here with my wife in 1999, Ashland was a quiet little town where everybody knew everybody else. That’s not the case anymore. But we’re not exactly Columbia just yet. Ashland is still a small town, with small town values, where people look out for each other.
One way to do that is by supporting each other’s kids. Even if your own children are all grown up and no longer in school, each of us has a neighborly obligation to provide for the well-being of our community’s kids. Giving them the best possible education is vital to their future success.
Refusing to meet this critical need will not reverse the last twenty years of growth in Southern Boone County. A “no” vote will not halt construction on the hundreds of homes slated to be built in the coming months and years. Voting against these measures will do nothing but harm the most vulnerable among us—our children.
We do not live in a perfect world, but by helping our children reach their full potential, we can make the world a little bit better. On April 2, please vote “yes” to support our schools, our teachers, and our kids.