A campaign is underway in my school district to pass a parcel tax (a fee per parcel of property owned in the district) to provide supplemental funding to public schools. There is no organized opposition to the proposed tax, but there is heated debate on the discussion forum for the local weekly newspaper. (It is anonymous, which seems to be fanning the flames, unfortunately.)
I've been trying to understand the opposition points of view. What I'm struggling with is whether it is worth my time to try to rebut their various arguments. Where is the third quartile here? Where are the people who are leaning against the tax, but could be convinced to support it?
Which opposition should I just write off as wingnuts?
Below the fold, read my summary of the true, the sad, the ignorant, and the insulting reasons for the opposition to this tax. Tell me, am I wrong to support it? If I'm right, how can I make the best case possible?
So, here's what I hear the opponents saying:
Everyone needs to do some belt-tightening.
True. these are tough times. The district is facing $9 million in cuts, and the proposed parcel tax will only raise about half that much. $2 million was cut last year. Belt-tightening is already underway.
I can't afford more taxes.
Sad, but certainly true for some. The average income in our community is over $100k, but there are layoffs here just like in other places. Home prices are high (California high) and so expenses can get out of control quickly when people find themselves without income.
I already pay too much in taxes -- also stated as, this school district already gets too much money per student.
This is just a values difference, isn't it? The district spends under $10,000 per student. More than the average California district, less than the average per pupil spending in the US. About the same as other districts in the area with high performance on standardized tests.
I'm suffering, so teachers should too.
Not an argument -- just an emotional gut reaction.
Teachers are unionized and therefore selfish.
Ignorant. We're all selfish -- and we can also make decisions that favor the common good.
There's also a values difference here. I start from the assumption that unions exist to protect their members from unfair actions by administrators. Others in the debate seem to start from the assumption that unions exist because people are greedy.
Teachers get three months off, and don't deserve raises.
First, there's the fact that summer vacation is only 8 weeks in our district. Then, there's the discounting of the work that gets done when students are not in class (setting up the classroom, preparing new teaching materials, attending graduate school classes or participating in continuing education...) Finally, there's the sense that anyone could do what a teacher does, since we've all been students for at least 13 years.
Infuriating, really. I could use some advice about calm ways to counter these arguments.
The administrators are crooks and I don't want them to get any more of my money.
This is the one I'm really struggling with. There seem to be people convinced that the superintendent is overpaid (he makes about $225k) and that administrators get reimbursed for lunch too often. No one seems to be acknowledging that the administrative staff is about to be cut by 25% -- they are calling for salary cuts for those who stay, even though they will all be doing more work than they are now.
I'd really like to refocus people on the fact that shooting down the tax proposal is not going to solve the problem of ineffective administrators (even if it really exists) and the program cuts that will occur if the tax is not passed will hurt children's learning.
Is it even worth trying? How would you approach the persuasive task of winning over people who are currently opposed to the parcel tax?