To the editor:
Why should you support the override? There are indeed many reasons why you might not want to—but not one of them is as important as the one reason why you should.
Some people don’t want to support the override because non-Newton kids are educated in the Newton schools, or because construction at North was a botched endeavor. Some people don’t want to support the override because they don’t have kids in the Newton schools, or because they don’t like our government, or our tax rates, or our president, or the state of our economy, or the direction this country is going in. I’m not saying those aren’t valid complaints—but this override is our chance to actually allocate our own money in a way that is targeted at just those things we all, collectively, care about, things that help build Newton as a community. We may not be able to dictate what the state and federal government are doing with our money, but we do have a say in our local government, and particularly with this override. Mayor Warren has worked so hard these past 3 years to prove that he will make every attempt to eliminate wasteful spending. If you still think town, state, or federal money is being spent wastefully, protest it where you see it—but don’t protest by voting no for funding these services that build the community we share.
As a Newton teacher for 14 years, a Newton resident for 8 years, and a Newton parent for 4 years, I have noticed that our resources are getting pretty thin, especially at the elementary level. For the first time, I am able to envision a future in which education in Newton could inevitably falter. Not only will quality educators think twice about accepting a position in a district with run-down facilities, high student-to-teacher ratios, and low salary and benefits packages, but also our students will have to continue to endure unsanitary and even unsafe learning conditions. And while the teachers are unfailingly positive about working in appalling situations for years on end, with erratic heating, broken windows, no working drinking fountains, and water leaks, why should they have to be? While I appreciated the “charm” of skunks living under the outdated modulars of my son’s kindergarten wing at Cabot, I concur that most public buildings are better off without such sounds and scents.
This override isn’t about paying for the schools and roads; not really. This override is about you, the voter, deciding what kind of world you want to live in. This is where government really happens; we may feel our voices aren’t heard at the national level, but we can make them heard in our own city. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent or none of the above—there are certain fundamentals essential to the fabric of American life over these past 250 years, and these fundamentals include basic public works, public safety, and public education. Do we want to be a city in which these fundamentals continue to be a source of pride? We all have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our roads and citizens; we all share likewise in the task of educating our young people for tomorrow, whether they come from our community or one nearby. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you have nothing to gain from the override if you do not have children in Newton schools—to the contrary, you will gain from ensuring that the next generation of young people to grow up here, at least, will be prepared to take the lead in an uncertain future. As author John Green says, “The reason why I pay taxes for schools even though I don’t have a kid in school is that I am better off in a well-educated world. Public education isn’t a charity project; I pay for your schools because I want you to grow up and make my life better […] Your education isn’t just about you; your nation is making an investment in you because they believe that you are worth it.”
Our kids are worth it; and so is this override.