Michael Bickford: Yes On Measure Q – October 30, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Iam a public school teacher in Eureka, my two children graduated from Arcata High School, and I live in the Northern Humboldt Union High School District (NHUHSD). I write in support of Measure Q. I wish to specifically address some of the statements made in last week’s Eye by Jack Durham while making general arguments in favor of Measure Q.

THE EDUCATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE

The idea that improving our educational infrastructure may be unnecessary is fallacious. We are all aware that out infrastructure in America is crumbling—that instead of investing in real improvement, the U.S. is racing just to keep ahead of Third World status. Our streets, roads and highways, which were once the best in world, are best no longer; our gas lines are exploding; our electrical grid is in the Edison era; and the railroads that made this nation great aren’t even in the same league as our economic competitors—we’re behind India on that score.

But as important as these infrastructure components are, none are as vital to our future as our educational infrastructure, because the future of all of these other sectors, in fact the overall future of our region, state and nation, depend on the education of the people for whom all this infrastructure exists in the first place. It is either with a well educated and intellectually competent citizenry that we remediate these problems, or else it will be an undereducated and intellectually backward population that presides over our demise as an economic engine and our decline as a culture. It is penny wise and pound foolish to scrimp on our most important infrastructure. All infrastructure needs to be renewed and rebuilt over time, but we undervalue our own children and thus our future if we do not just repair and rebuild our schools but strive to constantly improve them.

ECONOMICS 1A

Rather than waiting until some mythic economic boom time as Mr. Durham suggests, NOW is exactly the right time to be investing in our most important local infrastructure, the one that will carry us into our next economic boom: our schools. In an ideal world, maintenance, improvement and redevelopment of our schools (which are inevitable), would be funded by savings ear-marked for each specific future purpose. But this is far from an ideal world, and even the most cash-rich and prosperous private enterprises fund capital expansion and retooling with corporate bonds.

Furthermore, in times of slow growth, low inflation, and low interest rates such as these, a company or local school district is potentially dollars ahead when needed funds are borrowed cheaply to be paid back with the sure-to-be-inflated money of the future.

Another purely economic aspect of this issue is boldly illustrated on the back cover of this week’s Time Magazine. The ad’s headline reads simply, “How a plan to upgrade city schools became an opportunity for local builders.” A local bond measure is the best bang-for-your-buck stimulus program there is for our local economy.

OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE IS OUR FUTURE

The economic arguments are not the most important reasons to vote YES on Measure Q. The most compelling reasons are now in the sixth grade and younger: the future high school students of NHUHSD. As a community I hope we put the lives of people—young lives, full of great potential in this case—over purely economic considerations. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT 10 CENTS A DAY FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN! I can’t even believe there is any opposition to this bond measure.

Mr. Durham takes up much of his piece decrying the methods used by school officials in supporting Measure Q. These are red herrings. Take up these issues at the ballot box or at board meetings. They say nothing about the needs of our schools.

WE ARE TALKING ABOUT 10 CENTS A DAY FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN! I can’t even believe there is any opposition to this bond measure.

And the argument that we can’t pass a bond unless we know in advance precisely what the money will be used for flies in the face of democratic processes. The district has listed the options they have in mind and the estimated costs. Once the bond is passed there will be an open, democratic process for determining the specifics. Anyone interested enough can get involved at that time.

So we are left with a list of specific questions of need. I don’t want to get into my opinions of what the future students of NHUHSD will need, but I would say this to those who oppose Measure Q: address your frugality arguments to the nine- and 10-year-olds who will be directly affected by our action or inaction this November.

Tell one of Jim Hatchimonji’s fourth graders who has just fallen in love with the cello that you can’t afford a dime a day to build a performing arts center that would get one of the best high school orchestras in the state out of the cafeteria.

We’re talking about the lives of our children and grandchildren. We’re talking about expenditures that will reap a mighty harvest of happiness and prosperity in the future. An expenditure that amounts to the price of a piece of chewing gum each day.

Tell a 10-year-old soccer or football player for whom sports is, for now, school’s biggest attraction that you would rather he or she risk injury playing in a mud-hole of a field than give up a dime a day to build a safe (and economical) playing surface.

Tell the eight-year-old future salutatorian at Mack High that he or she can compete for a spot at UC without upgraded library and technology facilities because that 10 cents is just too dear to you. Tell the third grader who may not be college-bound that we can just keep on phasing out industrial arts because, darn, you were saving up all those dimes so you could spend your $36 a year on dinner at a restaurant.

That’s what we’re talking about here, people: spending 10 cents a day for a few years to get our most important infrastructure up to the standards that they would already be at if we hadn’t been so cheap as a state over the past 40 years.

We’re talking about the lives of our children and grandchildren. We’re talking about expenditures that will reap a mighty harvest of happiness and prosperity in the future. An expenditure that amounts to the price of a piece of chewing gum each day. Mr. Durham and other skin-flint nay-sayers who would stand athwart the progress of this community, get off your high horses and talk with the children about there futures.

It may be too much to ask that you change your negative position, but to the rest of us I say: SUPPORT OUR STUDENTS. SUPPORT OUR SCHOOLS. VOTE YES ON MEASURE Q.

Michael Bickford is a science teacher at Zane Middle School and an Arcata resident.


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