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The Emmett Messenger-Index opines:  “Levy Fails” was the big headline in the Messenger Index May 29 issue. The immediate impact to the Emmett School District was planning for $1.77M reduction over our proposed budget — $500,000 of this is in major maintenance projects and the rest is in teaching and staff positions and supply budgets. Two years ago the district cut $850,000 from our budget and then went to the voters for $1M dollars to keep the district whole. These two reductions equate to just over 17 percent in two years.

People have been saying to me, “At least we are not Nampa.” I agree in the sense their problems were created through mistakes and not planning for the many cuts all Idaho districts had to make over the past few years. However, their problem was a 9 percent shortfall and their community came out and supported two levies in one year to cover all but about 4 percent of their needs.

During the spring of 2013, 63 school districts ran levies or bonds. Fifty-four passed with the majority receiving well over 60 percent yes votes. With this defeat, we are proposing a budget that is lower than any budget for the past 11 years.

The question for Emmett is what type of future do we want for our students and community? There is plenty of evidence to show that the economic strength of the community is tied to the quality of the schools. Preparing our students to be ready to enter the work force or college requires that we invest in our buildings, teachers, staff and operations.

The state has continued to underfund Idaho schools. We are the 49th out of 50 states in funding of education. Emmett’s elementary reading program is so old that we were told by the state supplier this year that they no longer carry the student materials that have to be replaced every year. The state stopped providing funding for textbooks four years ago, so we continue to push our textbook adoptions out into the future.

Local communities across Idaho have had to step up and fill the gap to maintain their local schools. We will have to run another levy on Aug. 27 to fund ESD for this coming year. Even if the levy passes, we will be cutting over $200,000 out of our budget for next year. Year after year of staff reductions, cutting salaries, deferring maintenance and not purchasing textbooks is harming the quality of education we can offer. So, what future do we want for our students and their education in Gem County?

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