I got a reminder this week from my Farm Progress colleague Holly Spangler in Illinois
that the school funding crisis is nationwide.
This is a struggle that faces not just farm families but urban families as well. In Wichita, my family is faced with losing the school community of which we have been a part for six years. Our 219-student Open Magnet, Emerson, is on the USD 259 chopping block, apparently because the community of which we are made is diverse enough that no one school will be overloaded if all our kids are forced to attend the neighborhood schools their parents rejected when they chose our Open Magnet.
That is brought about by the fact that we are the only pure magnet (every parent has to apply) school in the northwest part of town. We've been together since the 1970s when Open Magnet first became a Wichita option. It's a generational thing (many of our teachers have more than 20 years at our school) with which most farm families can identify.
It seems this is an annual event for farm families and city families alike as schools struggle to find ways to pay for everything they think they have to offer.
Farm kids have been taken the brunt of the hits since I was kid and my country school was "voted" into the town district in 1962. I put voted in quotes because the state changed the rules and allowed the town, as well as all the rural attendance area, to vote. The town, which had twice as many people as the rural area, voted to increase the size of their district and therefore their budget.
It was pretty much the kind of "vote" that USD 259 parents have in the current round of closings.
My siblings were sentenced to a school day that began with bus pickup at 7 a.m. and ended with drop-off at 5:30 p.m. and in no way did they get as good an education as I did in the little, two-room country schoolhouse I attended for 8 years.
It's a sad statement that today school districts, like much of society, seem to value "things" more than people. We have to have the latest gadgets, shiny new buildings and state-of-the-art this and that. Unfortunately, what kids need is what they get on the farm and in small schools, be they rural or urban: Patience, love, gentle insistence on following the rules and a sense of belonging to this new organization of which all classmates are a part.