It’s time to bite the bullet, McKinney residents, and put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. Yes, we are all faced with voting for or against the McKinney ISD TRE (tax ratification election) this week and next. No one, myself included, wants to pay higher taxes, but I shudder to think of the consequences to our students, our school district and our community if the TRE does not pass.
Yes, teachers will be cut and class sizes, K-12, will increase. Some classes that have been offered at the high school level may no longer be offered. The non-state mandated classes such as art, band and athletics will be affected. Less support, like tutoring for students, across the board will be likely. Teachers, who already shell out funds from their own pockets to make purchases for their classrooms will be asked to do more. Parents will be asked to pay more. There may be extra fees for supplies, pay-to-play situations for athletics and all extracurricular activities, more monies will need to be raised by booster clubs in order to support campus organizations.
My three kids were educated (except for three years) in MISD schools and all was not always perfect. There was the occasional poor teacher, and there was frustration with having to move my kids to a new campus nearly every year due to redistricting caused by the enormous growth in McKinney. But overall, my kids were the recipients of a quality education by teachers who cared. They learned from administrators who encouraged them and they learned from their coaches who instilled values and lessons that have sustained them as responsible, productive adults.
My friends and I had high expectations of MISD in the early days of McKinney’s rapid growth. I remember in the mid ‘90’s when a group of us parents, who were passionate about the importance of the arts in our schools, campaigned the school board to make art a part of the curriculum. The school board listened. Today art is still a part of the MISD students’ experience.
In 2001, I was part of a group of parents who addressed our then superintendent and board of trustees about speeding up the process of giving the new McKinney North High School it’s own identity sooner than officials had planned. They listened and again took action, understanding that parents do sometimes see things from a different perspective. MNHS broke away from MHS and formed its own identity in 2002, with the support of the board. North’s first graduating class – the class of ’04 – faced many hurdles, but I believe that the students in that class met those challenges and, as a result, learned leadership, teamwork and cooperation.
I’ve lived in nine communities across the country and I have yet to come across a school system where there are not issues – lack of funding, or a smattering of teachers who appear to be simply collecting a check, or a few “difficult” administrators. We in McKinney have grown accustomed to expecting our kiddos to have nice, safe campuses, the latest in technology, opportunities to excel in athletics and other extracurricular activities. We take some of this for granted. I know I did.
Texas already ranks 49th (D.C. is included in this ranking) in the country in the dollars spent per student on education. MISD ranks at the bottom of per student spending in all of Collin County and will be dead last if Plano’s TRE passes later this fall. Is this what we in McKinney, Texas want for our kids? Don’t we deserve better?
I’m not advocating that simply throwing money at our schools is the entire answer, but I do believe that we have to be competitive. Passing this TRE would put McKinney in the middle of the Collin County pack for spending. Finding ways to allocate funds effectively and efficiently has been tackled by MISD. And passing this TRE will allow us to keep the programs and class sizes that have, to date, benefitted students.
I’ve experienced first hand a school system where funding issues were disastrous. From 1997-2000, our family lived in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. We lived through Oregon’s infamous Measure 5, which capped property taxes dedicated for school funding. Here are some of the consequences that our school district, although a mecca for the wealthy, experienced. Courses were cut, affording high school students fewer choices beyond those that were state mandated. Students at the high school level often had late arrival and early release, sometimes attending school only two or three hours a day because the district couldn’t afford to hire enough teachers to support the extra classes. The district’s education foundation didn’t raise scholarship money, but they raised funds to buy technology, pay for additional teachers and aides. The schools were falling into disrepair because of lack of funds to update and repair them. Paint was peeling on nearly every wall visible. Kids had to pay to participate in everything. As vice-president of the PTO, I chaired a dinner / auction and the pressure to raise a large amount of money was intense. We cleared $94,000, the majority of which went to fund an additional teacher’s salary and technology for students.
Even 15 years ago the cost to play a sport, be a cheerleaders, or participate in any extra-curricular activity was $120 per child per activity. Elementary classes were often made up of more than 30 students in a class. There was no bus service available – parents had to transport kids to and from school or they walked. There were only two middle school sponsored sports programs available to kids – basketball and track. All other sports, from football, to soccer, to volleyball were “club” sports, coached by parents, or, if you were lucky, the club could afford to “hire” a coach.
I have to admit that I took education for granted while living in McKinney. We had new schools, technology was making its way to campuses, class sizes were small, and we had a full athletic program at the middle school level. The years we lived in Oregon were extremely eye-opening. I would hate to see any of these consequences occur here, but truly, if the community does not support the TRE, we could be headed in just such a direction.
I no longer have kids in MISD schools, however, I believe it’s imperative to support the TRE as a community. Without great schools, McKinney cannot attract the new business that it so desperately needs to bring in more tax dollars for our city and our schools. Business owners are not going to bring their business to McKinney if we, as a community, don’t support public education. Executives are not going to choose to live in McKinney if we don’t walk the talk about valuing education. I know – I was married to a corporate executive for years and the school system was a critical component in choosing where to move our family.
I have faith. McKinney is a well-educated community. As of the 2010 census, 91.6% of us have a high school diploma or higher and 45.1 percent of us hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the Texas average if 26.1 percent. I’m guessing that the majority of us value education. While our public education system may have many flaws, I feel many of those issues must be addressed on the federal and state level. It may be time for an overhaul of our education system, however, I implore you to address the system with your state legislators, many of whom are in favor of continued cuts that will effect education in the state of Texas. McKinney educators are expected to enforce state policy. They may lobby for change, but change comes hard. I hope that we will sit up and pay attention as we vote our legislators into (or back into) office.
In my opinion, this TRE vote should be about the community as a whole. I want my property value to remain high. I want my community to remain attractive to business and corporate America. I want my school district to be able to pay administrators and teachers competitively. I want the best of the best – I don’t want to settle for mediocrity. I want to be proud of McKinney and say emphatically, “We support education in McKinney, Texas!”
In this vastly competitive world, we must assure our kids that they will be able to compete in a global market – that they will be prepared for the future. Our kids are our future. Aren’t they worth this investment?
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”
George Washington Carver