The legislative session has begun, which means another year of public schools having to defend themselves against things like continued budget cuts, property taxes levied, ranking of schools, test scores and a myriad of other standard political hotbed topics.
Unfortunately, over the last several years, schools have gone from places that were seen as an investment in our society to places that now must fight to remind political activists that they are here to educate our future. Public schools are now forced to constantly show our politicians that education is not a place to skimp, but a place that should be grown to improve our society long term. Public schools must also tell our story that we are not what we were years ago, but places with changing student demographics increased regulations, and additional educational focuses including career development, early childhood education, special education, physical education and mental health.
Although this task of reminding people about the value of a good education can seem daunting, the one thing I know about educators is that they will work tirelessly to help teach state senators and lobbyists all the great things that public education is doing for our children and communities. There will no doubt be some that try to hack and slash public education’s credibility throughout the session, but we will continue to pour our heart and souls into the children that will make up our next generation. During this onslaught, public education will continue to find ways to do more with less because we want to model the same grit and resiliency we try to teach the children. In addition, public education will continue to scrutinize our expenses to ensure we are using tax dollars wisely for what we perceive as the best educational return. We do this not because of legislative pressure, but because we care about the development of kids and are governed by hardworking locally elected officials.
I am not certain when public education became a place that needed to be constantly defending its craft, but that is the current political climate. Public education serves almost 87 percent of all children in the state of Nebraska and, in my opinion, the money that is being spent is a great use of our dollars. It is a way for us not only to support and educate our youth, but it is an investment in our communities, our workforce, and our society. These discussions on education always remind me of a quote by Ben Franklin that states, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Aaron Plas is the superintendent of Lakeview Community Schools.