Imagine, if you will, that you work in a small room filled with tables, desks, chairs, bookshelves, storage carts, and 20 living, breathing, sneezing, and coughing human beings. Some of those human beings suffer from attention deficit disorder. One or two show signs of PTSD. Another has been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder. A few may have lice. Others are affected by hunger and neglect. Several have physical or mental handicaps. The rest of the people in the room are what society would consider “normal”, but from your experience, you realize there is no such thing.

Travis Naughton

You are, of course, a teacher.

Now imagine trying to teach those children how to read and write while a classmate throws chairs across the room and curses at you. Imagine trying to teach kids whose stomachs ache all morning because they go to bed without dinner most nights, or kids who come to school with dried feces in their hair.

The state of Missouri mandates that your students’ assessment scores in reading, math, science, and social studies exceed a certain arbitrary level as decided by lawmakers with no classroom experience. These lawmakers do not take into consideration how much instructional time is lost while you as a teacher deal with behavior issues or the tragic consequences of woeful parenting.

Your job security is dependent upon your students’ success, yet you are focused on things like getting all 20 of your students to sit down long enough to rehearse what to do the next time their violent classmate starts throwing chairs or if a deranged mass-murderer starts shooting up the school.

Now imagine trying to teach 25 (or more) kids affected by these issues, instead of “just” 20. That is the daunting challenge the educators in the fast-growing Southern Boone County School District will face in the very near future if steps are not taken immediately to alleviate the overcrowding issues currently affecting our schools.

Our district has an exemplary reputation, one that reflects the community’s dedication to its young people, but it is not exempt from the serious issues plaguing larger school districts in our area. As a substitute teacher, I have seen with my own eyes the challenges SoBoCo teachers face in their classrooms every single day, including the examples I just mentioned. Unless we, the citizens of Southern Boone, vote to pay for expanded facilities in the April election, our children and their teachers will pay the real price.

Missouri guidelines dictate a maximum of 25 children per K-2 classroom. The state’s “desirable” standard is 17. There are already over 20 kids in each of the SoBoCo Primary School’s 8 kindergarten classrooms this year. I can tell you from experience that managing the behaviors of, and teaching important concepts to, 20 kindergartners at a time is an incredible challenge. I don’t even want to think about how difficult it would be with 25% more children crammed into that same space.

Some critics of the proposed tax increase question why the school board didn’t foresee this continued growth when they petitioned for the bond issue that funded the district’s most recent facilities expansion. The fact is that the board did predict future growth, but the district was limited in how much could be done within the limits of its bonding capacity.

With plans to add hundreds of homes in and around Ashland in the coming months and years, the need for expanded school facilities is critical. Temporary trailers are not a realistic option to contend with the overcrowding problem. Trailers depreciate in value very quickly. They do not have plumbing, (although they could, at great expense to the district), which would result in a constant flow of young students walking from trailers to the main school building to use the restroom. They are not safe in severe weather or in the event of an armed intruder. And in many districts, temporary trailers become permanent, inadequate fixtures. No, trailers are not an option.

No one likes to pay taxes. However, there are services funded by tax dollars that are essential for any civilized society to function properly. Law enforcement, fire protection, and education services are three areas in which Americans should be unwilling to underfund. For the good of our children, our educators, and our community, I implore you to support the proposed tax for our schools on the April ballot.

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