Education - The Key to Our Future
Prior to my election the House of Representatives I was a member of the Canton School Board for 16 years, Board President from 2006 through 2011 and Vice-President since then. I just won that seat for another 3 years unopposed. My first year on the Board was truly an eye opener. Faced with State funding cuts, decreased enrollment and increased operating expenses we worked diligently with Administrators and staff to find the necessary cuts with the goal of having as little impact as possible on the students and education. We had to cut $750,000 before the 2002 school year ended. In 2003 we prepared for an opt-out of the property tax freeze and asked the community for a $350,000 opt-out. The measure failed by less than 20 votes.
I learned many valuable lessons from those early years. The Board accepted the decision of the community and as we started to recover from the cuts we decided that through careful planning we could make concessions and find ways to restore programs we had cut. We also decided that if an opt-out were to be attempted again, it would have to come from the community. In the ensuing years we have not only recovered but we are growing a strong and vibrant education system that is financially sound and stable.
The Board alone did not accomplish this recovery. It was through tough negotiations, magnanimous concessions and efforts of the teachers and staff as well as efforts by administrators to trim costs in many areas. Working together as a team we have become one of the strongest School Districts in the State.
I believe I can take these experiences to Pierre and work through the School Funding debate and other funding issues with fresh ideas and a common sense approach. I believe that a one-size-fits-all budget formula does not work. Larger school districts with growing populations are not as financially troubled as those with 700 to 1,000 students. Larger schools also have a better success rate for opt-outs since the financial burden is spread over a greater number of taxpayers. There needs to be an offset factor that does not punish the mid-sized and smaller schools.
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