#Editorial #OurVoice #MichaelHallisey #SpotlightNews
It takes a village to raise a child. We’ve said that before within the context of public education. Home and property owners have a hand in the quality of education for our children, no matter how passive that effort may be. It may just involve nothing more than passing over the check to pay taxes, but that’s an effort few of us take lightly. A quality education is costly. To prepare our children for the future, they need tools and information we as adults did not possess. Afterall, demands change. The room you once walked into for typewriting skills is now a computer lab.
So many of us, however, don’t have kids attending school. Whether they’ve grown, or were never our plan, we don’t have an apparent interest vested in the success or failure of our public schools. But, that’s a short-sighted view of our community. It’s likely that one or more of your neighbors moved into town to start a family. Before stepping foot into that house, a decision was made to look within certain districts. The prospect of a backyard and a nearby park helped seal the deal, but it was the school district that brought that lovely couple over here in the first place.
Our property values are tethered to our schools, and the quality of those schools help factor into how much you receive in return should you decide to sell your home or property. Your house is an investment. So is the education of your young neighbors. When the schools work properly, you benefit whether you have a child or not. Guilderland residents understand that symbiotic relationship. According to a January survey, nearly 30 percent of responders stated the quality of their school district factored into the purchase of their home.
However, now is gut-check time for those Guilderland residents.
Tuesday, district residents will vote on the fate of a $42.7 million capital improvement project that will cost them more come tax season. Based on the average property value of $326,000, the school district said it will be $103 more. This is after district staffers and volunteering residents collaborated with engineers on the best means in which to improve the district’s aging infrastructure.
So, what is the price tag associated with what residents want to see out of their school district? The No. 1 issue survey respondents agreed upon is the safety and security of school children. Fire alarms, telephone systems, the addition of security cameras and shatter-resistant window film are a few items on a list of upgrades the district estimates will cost $21 million. Health and comfort, which involves replacing windows and upgrading the ventilation system, costs another $9 million. Preparing our children for the future costs another $12 million.
In recent memory, we can recall North Colonie and Bethlehem taking similar steps in introducing capital improvement plans to their district residents. Each district ranks among the Top 50 school districts in the state at No. 50 and No. 42, respectively. Guilderland is similar to North Colonie in terms of the median household income, each at about $75,000. Last year, North Colonie presented several proposals to its residents. After an initial rejection, voters approved a plan worth more than $111 million. That district is also in need of expanding as it addresses a population boom.
Guilderland currently does not rank within the Top 50 districts within New York state. It’s not in the Top 100, either (No. 105, according to niche.com). Nonetheless, it’s a district that still garners attention from perspective families and one a community can take pride in. But, how long will we be able to say that? As for safety, Guilderland is ranked No. 249 out of 692 state school. Comprare that to Bethlehem at No. 58 or North Colonie at No. 52. In an environment in which we push our students to achieve high marks, if that last number was on a test, we’d all read “See me” on the top.
As the district presents pictures of drafty windows and crumbling facades, it’s time to find a way to invest in your school. Wherever you may stand, be sure to vote.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.