Support Our Public Education

Published 3:23 pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

Editor, The Herald:

I am writing as a mother of two children in the Prince Edward County school system and as a citizen of Farmville. That word, citizen, holds special meaning for me these days-I teach a general education class at Longwood entitled “Active Citizenship and Writing.” In that class, I emphasize that active citizenship matters-it is the best way, in many cases the only way, to create change. I am writing in the hopes that the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors does not prove me wrong, and disillusion not only the citizens, not only the teachers and students in the Prince Edward County schools, but also the college students who look to us as models.

The Board of Supervisors has heard a common plea from parents, retired and current teachers, and community members: fund our schools. At the Supervisors meeting on April 17, after listening to several people who supported this position, a Board member raised the point that Prince Edward County gives more per student to the school system than many of the surrounding counties give to their school systems. This information was provided not to refute the undeniable fact that we are in dire need of funding, but as a point unto itself. The information, I believe, was presented defensively, as if to say: “We care about the schools. Don't tell us we don't.”

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While some people have, quite rightly, questioned funding for projects of less urgency to the community than our school system (such as the new road and planned convention center), no one has accused the Board of ignoring the needs of our schoolchildren. Instead, we are asking the Board to do what is necessary to continue to support public education in this community.

If the Board chooses to take a defensive position-to point to what has been done or is being done, even if it is not enough, even if it costs our children language and music instruction-as a justification for privileging the interests of the few over the voice of the many, it will send a powerful message to this community. It will say, in effect, that democracy in action-active citizenship-is not enough to sway those in power. What a shame it would be for me to have to teach that to my students.

Elizabeth Hall Magill