Letter: We need to bail out the schools

My name is Sam Harrington and I am the behavioral intervention monitor (BIM) at an elementary school in Tucson. I retired from a non-educational career in the Midwest and moved to Tucson in 2002. After experiencing a few months of the "good life," boredom and the need to make a difference set in, I applied for a job at a local elementary school. I have been the BIM for the past six years.

My school is an inner-city school nestled in some of the lowest cost housing in Tucson. Ninety-two percent of our kids get a free lunch and breakfast. The incarceration of a family member is at times the norm rather than the exception for many of our kids. Our dedicated teaching staff deal daily with these social concerns and yet manage to educate, mentor, discipline and inspire their students, and many times their families as well. Our teachers constitute the difference not only between a student's successes in school, but in life as well. This holds true for most teachers in all schools in all districts.

The future for our kids relies a great deal on our teachers' abilities and strengths to instill in kids the desire to reach for more than they can already grasp. This is in part what an education gives a child. Someone once said, "Teachers who educate children deserve more honor than parents, who merely give them birth; for the latter provided mere life, while the former insure a good life."

With this is in mind, why is it that there is not a bailout for the educational system in this country? Why is there no champion rallying support for the teachers and students in this country? The government has spent billions upon billions of dollars bailing out banks, insurance companies, overextended homeowners, delinquent credit card holders, farmers, certain small businesses and even the uninsurable; however, the schools and educators are still struggling to keep dedicated teachers in classes and kids from being short-changed on an education. What is wrong with this picture? Is this country so short-sighted that we do not see the harm that will be done to our future by allowing excellent and needed teachers to be laid off, class sizes to staggeringly increase and kids who deserve help fall through the cracks?

It is apparent, at least so far, that no one from the federal government has stepped in with a bailout or stimulus scheme to help schools retain the teacher population they need to properly educate our children. Arizona, however, does feel it important enough to come up with a plan. It is a 1 percent sales tax; it is Proposition 100. Granted, it is not an appealing plan to a great many, but everyone must consider the dire effects a No vote will have on the educational system in our state.

If the plan/tax is not passed, it will result in thousands of teachers being laid off, and a domino effect in our schools will be created, resulting in class size increases, children not receiving the individual attention to success they have now; and the bottom line is that our kids will suffer educationally for many years. Another side effect of layoffs and increased class sizes is the almost certain increase in discipline problems, truancy and kids failing academically. This is not rhetoric, this is fact. Look it up.

Many of our leaders are against an earmarked educational tax, saying that by simply balancing a budget, the money will be there for education. We have been waiting for this to happen for a year or more. How long must schools and students wait? Do we wait until class sizes are at a capacity that teachers are simply in class to maintain order and teaching becomes hit or miss?

Personally, I am in a quandary and facing a dilemma. I am opposed to and normally would not endorse the idea of new taxes, however, we have run out of time and any other alternatives other than an earmarked sales tax have not been presented, offered or recommended by anyone to save the present outcome presented to many school districts. There is no other way to come up with these critically needed funds; therefore, we Arizonans are going to have to do it ourselves.

Is the future of our kids worth a small, limited sales tax? Can we afford to wait and see what happens to our schools after thousands of teachers are laid off? What have our teachers and kids done to deserve this treatment? Think about it, teachers and kids have no voice. They have no influence. They have no clout. They have only the voters of Arizona to speak for them.

I am not an educator. I am not affected either way whether the sales tax passes or not. I raised five kids and they are no longer in the educational system. I am an angry registered voter. I pay my taxes, which I think are too high. I am certain many of you also think they are too high as well and in many cases are misspent.

I do know this, everybody does, education is the path to success. I also know that if you have never tasted ice cream, you don't know what you've missed; but once you've tasted it, you want more. It is the same with the success you receive through an education; once you've experienced it, you want more. Let's make sure our kids have a taste of ice cream. Vote for education in Arizona.

Sam Harrington

Tucson