Wednesday, December 13, 2000
School funding is so much on the mind of state legislators, they even changed the name of the House Revenue Committee to the School Funding and Tax Fairness Committee.
Legislators know three things. One, everyone wants to see education adequately funded. Two, no one wants to pay for it. Three, voters are schizophrenic.
Increasing funding for schools while lowering taxes is well beyond the math schools of most mortals, let alone most legislators. Looking to Salem for such feats of magic is like putting wheels on a tomato -- time consuming and ultimately pointless.
The answer lies elsewhere. Talmadge Middle School is on the right track.
The school lacked the money and resources to offer more than the most timid drama program. Unfortunately, programs such as drama are among the first sacrificed when budgets get tight.
Such a pity. Talmadge, in particular, has a long tradition of many wonderful student productions. It would have been a tragedy just to let the curtain fall.
Thanks to the timely arrival of the Apple Box Children's Theater, Talmadge now stands to have one of the best school drama programs in the area.
Apple Box volunteers, including retired theater arts Professor Bob Page, are lending their expertise to the school in exchange for a permanent home.
The program will not just be for Talmadge Middle School students. Productions will be open to kids throughout the Central School District. And even local grown ups.
Page hopes to stage performances with both child and adult actors. Talmadge students benefit by getting front row seats, so to speak, to the entire theatrical process.
The Central School District, and the entire Monmouth-Independence community, get a first-rate drama program and it costs taxpayers nothing.
It just took a group of people willing to take matters into their own hands. We hope this is the start of something big.
Every community has people with untapped expertise. There are actors, directors, writers, artists, engineers and scientists. They all share a passion for their fields.
In Polk County, they tend to get into the schools, and not just for the occasional career fair. What we already have is wonderful, but we need to form more of the kind of community partnerships Talmadge has struck with the Apple Box Theater.
One thing that would help would be reworking the method by which people are certified as teachers. People go into a certain profession because they have that passion for it.
Later on, when they want to impart that passion to others, it needs to be easier for them to get in front of a classroom.
In the meantime, there is no need to wait. Opportunties for creative solutions and partnerships abound. The Apple Box experience stands as stunning proof.
The problems of education will not ultimately be solved by juggling numbers in bills and committees. It requires people taking an active, even aggressive, interest in the well being of children.
Until then, it will just be a frustrating math problem.