Voters cast ballot in favor of schools' future

Friday, November 7, 2003

Patrons of the Marshall School District came through, in a big way, for the local public schools at Tuesday's election.

The levy extension issue passed by a margin of 3 to 1, a far cry from the failures of bond issues to finance new construction over the last couple of years. There are several reasons one could cite for the success of a measure to transfer 31 cents of the overall levy from debt service to general operations, including:

* taxpayers were not being asked to approve an additional tax on top of what they already pay;

* approval of the measure means that in addition to the increase in local funding for general operations, under the current state aid formula the school district will receive roughly two more dollars in state money for every dollar of additional local revenue;

* requiring a simple majority for passage instead of a "supermajority" of four-sevenths of even two-thirds;

* and a very motivated group of local citizens working in support of the issue.

Moving the debt service portion of the levy was also possible because after this school year the district will be debt-free, a title not many districts can claim.

There are still many issues for the local schools to address, including the continuing quest to improve standardized test scores, educate at-risk students and those to whom English is not their primary language and upkeep and improvement issues that come with having several older buildings, such as three elementary schools that date back close to a century.

Questions were raised over the last few weeks about how the district intends to spend the money it will gain through the levy switch. While it's impossible to please everyone, the best advice for anyone with concerns about whether the district is spending too much on teacher salaries or extracurricular activities or technology is to attend, and speak out at, public meetings of the school board.

A public school is very much a continuing challenge. Whatever lessons are learned today, there are always more to be taught tomorrow.

Thankfully, Marshall voters received an A on their report card at the end of the day Tuesday.

-- J. Mark Lile