My mother always tells me people should avoid two topics: religion and politics. While I’m typically not a rule-follower per se, I agree with her on this. However, I’m going to break that rule right now and say that while most people like to pontificate on the “liberal media,” I am pretty conservative about a lot of things – especially when it comes to my money.
I’m a single mom, I budget, and I’m not a fan of agreeing to allow someone to take more of my money under the guise of needing something new. You need something new? Work for it, just like I do. I’m not giving you my cash.
That being said, if I think it’s important to support something, I will. And one thing I think is vitally important to support is the education SPLOST. Some of my co-workers may not agree with me. Some of you may not. But hear me out on this one.
Covering education for years has taught me a few things about school systems. One of those things is that they are woefully under-funded. The state may say schools have to have a certain thing – mandate it if necessary – but funding continues to be cut for these things the schools are required to have for the students. It’s not just in Newton County, not just in Georgia. It’s happening everywhere, and it’s horrible. But so is taking out the garbage and cleaning bathrooms – it doesn’t get me out of being required to do that. Just because it might not wanna, doesn’t mean the NCSS can just decide it isn’t going to follow the rules set by the state and federal government.
The one silver lining has been education SPLOST. The current Newton High School facility is a wreck. If you haven’t been inside in the last few years, take a tour. It’s not dirty; they take care of it and put Band-Aids on it. But the building is done. And schools cost a lot to build. If not for SPLOST, we’d be putting Band-Aids on NHS for many more years to come. Is Eastside High School still new-ish and pretty? Of course it is; but when the former board of education voted on the list of things that would need improvement in the next 10 years, it voted to move the theme school to EHS and build a new EHS. You could argue we don’t need more room in the theme school, but tell that to parents who want their kids there. Argue that they should stay at Ficquett, but that building is old too and will eventually need to be replaced or updated – as will every single one of our schools. Updating technology means a lot more on this level than just buying a couple of new computers.
And the bottom line is this: it costs a ridiculous amount of money just to operate the schools every single day. Property taxes are down, funding is down and we just do not have the money available to us to make our system the best it can possibly be without the SPLOST continuing. Go to a board meeting and see. They have their monthly financial statements available for anyone to pick up and examine. They talk about SPLOST and about costs of things. But for as many years as I have covered board meetings, I rarely see any parents or other concerned members of the community there to learn about what really goes on in the NCSS. It’s like a giant game of telephone, the way the “facts” get disseminated a lot of times. The only way to know is to go and see. Let’s think about this too: every single one of the board members we elected – all of them – voted in favor of the SPLOST referendum. I would like to think they did that because they want what is best for the education of the county’s students.
Do we wish SPLOST could pay for teachers? Sure. But it can’t, the state decided what that money could be used for and salaries weren’t it. Should that be changed? Maybe. But right now it can’t be. What we can do is make our schools more secure and give our kids top-notch technology and safer buses. That we can do. Until next year, I will not have a child in the NCSS. My son just made the pre-k lottery this week. Prior to having my child, I lived in Newton County and I paid that SPLOST tax without issue because I wanted the students to have what they needed to succeed and compete in the world. That matters to me because it reflects on me and it affects me. Either I can pay for their education or their incarceration. I choose the first option.
Does it take more money out of my pocket? Sure it does. But you know what? Giving 1 cent on every dollar that I spend in Newton County is worth it to me. And now, it’s worth it to my child – and to your children and grandchildren, too.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican, liberal or anything in between. What matters the most is the education of our students. We might not be able to pay teacher salaries with SPLOST money, but we can pay for our teachers to have the tools necessary to make sure our students succeed. Because whether you have kids or not, all of the 19,000-plus students in the NCSS are our students.
Just like scolding me about proper conversation, my mother also was fond of saying I was the reason we couldn’t have nice things. Well, to take a page out of her book, if we vote the education SPLOST down, then we’re the reason we can’t have nice things here in Newton County.
Amber Pittman is the editor for electronic media for The Covington News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org com.