Give Peace (and Education) a chance

Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.

Maria Montessori

 

IMG_8175

Vote YES for the middle school expansion!

Today is voting day in my small town. Or…as it was formerly known…Town Meeting Day. Or, more specifically, Town Meetin’ Day.

Many years ago, it was actually an open meeting for all town residents. Who assembled on folding chairs set up in the town hall. Votes were cast on various budget items and for the election of town officials. Attendees were given an opportunity to stand and voice support or opposition to the matters at hand. Sometimes a paper ballot. Sometimes just a voice vote.

Now, as the town has changed – and the population has increased – we vote in voting booths. In the former high school’s gymnasium. Exactly the same way we vote in the general elections.

Some may say these local elections are not all that important.
I disagree.
We are choosing the individuals who will sit on the School Board. We are voting for the members of the Board of Selectman, which governs our town. Making crucial decisions. Rules affecting how we live, where we live, where we park. Public safety. Fire trucks. Street signs. Police activity.  Water quality. Local businesses also absorbing the direct and indirect ramifications.

Today there are over 20 individual budget items to consider, including the annual operating budget. One item on the ballot – for the 3rd year in a row – is all about education.

The middle school desperately needs to be expanded and renovated. Each yearly proposal has slashed more of its requests to reduce the cost. Letters to the Editor in the local paper shout out We Need This! or A Waste of Money! Often implying that the senior citizens…or those without school age children…are the reason this hasn’t been approved.

The financial burden of property taxes (which is how our schools are financed) is real. I get that. But I also know that the dollar increase due to this ballot item is not extraordinary. It averages out to a few monthly meals at the local bar and grill over the course of a year. Maybe. Or a weekly latte at the coffee shop.

So I ask myself…why don’t people understand the significance of educating our children to the best of our ability? Why do they want to keep class sizes large and cram kids into a too-small cafeteria? No music room? Art on a cart? Educating the whole child…what happened to that, I wonder….and its ramifications if not done with care. And, yes, with some sacrifice.

As cliché as it sounds, it remains a fact: (Everyone’s) Children are the Future.

My children were raised in a different town than where I currently live. I will always be grateful to the citizens who voted in favor of school improvements and supported the teachers with the salaries they needed and deserved. Despite the sacrifice. I know many of those voters were senior citizens. Who had the foresight – and wisdom – to understand the need. And the significance.

Our children and their education is important.
Voting is crucial.
Let’s not take either for granted.

IMG_8173

I Voted

ivoted.jpgAs I drove towards the polling location this morning, I was thrilled to wait in a long line of cars to turn in to the parking lot.

Up and down the packed rows of cars I went, looking for an open parking space. Unlike the usual me, I felt no aggravation or need to complain under my breath.

The clouds and misty drizzle didn’t dampen my spirits as I parked. And walked by crowds of supporters holding campaign signs. Peacefully. Democrats on one side of the walkway. Republicans on the other side.

I was smiling as I waited in line behind other voters once I got inside the building…the town’s former high school. Tables side by side divided up voters via the alphabet — first letters of last names.

There were men, women, children, babies – all patiently waiting. Rows of red, white and blue curtained voting booths also waiting throughout the old gymnasium. I made it to the check-in person, showed my driver’s license and received my ballot – yes, here we have paper ballots as long as your arm. A black sharpie also waited inside each booth. To fill in the empty circles beside all the hopeful candidates’ names.

I am always filled with a sense of awe at this moment. At the privilege – and the right – of having my voice actually count. It is only one voice, but it is as important as that guy in front of me in line. And as important as the young mom holding the curly headed baby in the line to my left. The perfect equalizer. That not everyone in this world has.

Just before I turned 18, the voting age was changed from 21 to 18, courtesy of the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution (which followed the crucial 19th Amendment 51 years earlier…also making my vote possible). When I actually turned 18, I registered to vote at my high school. We had passionately discussed the significance of this change in History class and amongst ourselves. After all, there were 18, 19 & 20 year olds headed to Vietnam who should at least be able to vote.

I haven’t missed an election since.

When my two children turned 18, I took them soon after to our city hall to register. My son registered on his actual birthday – the next day was election day. And we both went together. “Did you get your absentee ballot?” I’d ask each of them every year when they were in college. We are lucky in this country, I tell them. We have a voice.

Use it.