The biggest surprise for me as a voter in the 2022 election was the result of the referendum on the Marshall Public Schools operating tax.
The referendum failed with 2,808 to 2,186 votes. Both the result and the margin came as a surprise, as it seemed the school district had got it right in its attempt to reach the public.
Officials spoke to community groups and stressed that the measure was aimed at maintaining existing services rather than expanding new ones.
The number of letters of support in our newspaper far exceeded that of the opposition. No one has put forward any other reason against the operating tax than simply not wanting to raise the tax.
I think the biggest obstacle the school district faced was having to ask for more taxpayer money one too many times. The levy proposal came less than two years after voters approved the bond issue to build Southview Elementary School to replace West Side Elementary.
The same thing happened in the 1980s, a few years after Park Side was built, when a 1989 tax referendum was rejected.
In any case, many voters seemed not to realize that public schools need both. They need modern, contemporary buildings and an adequate funding base for programs and services.
Without the levy, the district will probably have to increase the class size. Research shows that class size makes a big difference in the amount of personal attention teachers can give individual students. If the size is closer to 30 than 20 students, there are fewer opportunities to offer one-on-one help.
This could also affect the number of electives offered at the Junior and Senior High Levels. Electives offer the opportunity to take specialized courses in subjects such as foreign languages, business and technology. They are a very good basis for post-secondary studies.
I wonder if many of the “no” Voters took the time to be informed. Some are longtime residents who have not set foot in a school for at least 20 years. Others are newer residents who have never visited one.
Two days after the election, I had a good opportunity to visit Marshall High School for a feature interview. I enjoyed seeing busy lunchtime hallways full of enthusiastic teenagers.
Often we only hear negative news about school-related issues, from school shootings to drug abuse. It can give the impression that public education is in trouble. Seeing happy and successful students in everyday school life gives me many reasons to be optimistic.
Nothing is more important than children. When more funds lead to better educational opportunities, the money is well spent.
Even if someone questions the need for more taxpayers’ money, it’s important to consider how valuable public education is for reasons of economic development.
Marshall has evolved into a regional center for education, healthcare and industry in recent years. Each of these areas has a significant need to attract the best talent. It is necessary to stay first class in the 21st century economy.
Almost all prospective employees, even those who don’t have children, want to know how well the community maintains its public school system. A city that falls short is unlikely to continue on its path to growth and prosperity.
Although the operating tax failed, I don’t think Marshall is left out. There is a tremendous amount of Tiger Pride that shines through on a daily basis.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been able to highlight a number of really great achievements at the Independent, including a state volleyball championship and a seventh national finish for an FFA judging team.
There are many other good achievements that don’t make headlines but have tremendous value. I’m thinking about how young college-age employees are helping to care for my mother at her assisted living facility. One day I will depend on them. The money I spent on their public education will pay off.
Every generation should want a better life for their children and grandchildren. We probably won’t get that if we don’t pass it on, if we don’t provide the resources young people need to reach their full potential.
Our school district will again be asking voters for funding at some point in the not too distant future. When it happens, I hope everyone will consider the value of education. The impact of a tax increase needs to be compared to the importance of investing in our future.
— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent