2013-11-20 / Opinions

Conversation has come a long way

Over the last few weeks, The Morgan Messenger has run an extensive number of articles about our school system, its budget, their meetings and negotiations over what a new special levy might look like. Some readers have told us, on our letters pages and in person, that they’re bone-tired of the stories. Some feel like these articles are part of a “scare tactic” by the school system to get Morgan County residents to vote for a future levy.

Here’s how we see it: we decide what stories to print each week based on what we think is newsworthy and will keep our readers informed about current events. Several things have happened that are newsworthy:

— For the first time in decades, the Morgan County school board is taking an in-depth look at how they spend millions in taxpayer dollars. They’ve trimmed budgets before, but have never worked out – as they are doing now – how to cut nearly a quarter of their budget in a single year.

— For the first time in a long time, local people are attending school board meetings in large numbers. And sharing their views with this elected board. Before, even at annual budget meetings – where the school board decides how to spend more than $20 million dollars –only two or three people came. Recently, there have been up to 60 people in attendance at routine meetings.

— For the first time in decades, the school system is seriously entertaining the idea of closing a community school.

The conversations about school funding and the special levy in Morgan County have changed over recent months. We’ve seen people able to set aside their assumptions, ask questions and listen to other sides.

People who favored the levy can now see that the tax creates a very real burden on some property owners, many of whom don’t have children in our school system. Some against the tax admit they didn’t know the loss of the levy funds would mean major cuts to good programs.

School officials are wrangling out how the school system could operate on far fewer dollars – something the public has asked them to do for years. And they’re being clear about what they think is vital for our schools to keep serving students.

We think that’s worth covering in our pages.

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