From: Patrick Boozhoo
I am a product of the public school system and it played a vital role in shaping the man that I am today. I am a husband, father, son, grandfather, welder/fabricator, traditional Native pipe maker, Native drummer and singer, hack bass player, veteran, member of the American Indian Parent Advisory Committee, committee member for the Winona Dakota Unity Alliance, soccer coach for fifth-/sixth-grade boys, a tax payer and, since this past September, a member of the Winona area community. None of these things would have been a reality were it not for the role of the public school system and the lessons and inspiration that was afforded to me in their charge.
My wife and I chose to move to Winona; it wasn’t that either one of us lost a job or were moved here because of one. As most parents we were concerned with where we had lived and whether our children would grow up in a community that fosters the same ideals that we value: family, compassion, unity, environmental conservation, art, music and hope for the future and the future of our challenged youth. We see in this community an energy and desire to strive for those values and that is what brought our family to Winona.
I am writing this letter because we see something that may be threatening those values and rather than complaining amongst ourselves or the circles that we travel I would rather raise awareness to that concern and work with the community to try and find a solution. The Winona public school administration has recently proposed budget cuts of around 5.7 percent for next year. It’s my understanding that the previous years have seen similar cuts and those cuts are continuously disproportionate to the art and music departments. This is especially concerning to us because it is one of the main reasons we decided to move to this community. We see the birth of a renaissance of the arts and music in Winona through different festivals, businesses and publicly sponsored events that we both find to be undeniably paramount in the development of our children.
I attended a budget reduction meeting at the middle school on April 1 that afforded members of the community the opportunity to address the School Board regarding these cuts and was happy to see that our family is not alone in its understanding of the importance of music and the arts in the education of our youth. Not a single person who spoke, other than in levity, supported such disproportionate and damaging cuts to these areas. It was as though everyone spoke with one voice and held common ideals citing with passion the importance and value of these departments.
For a community that is making such wonderful strides in these areas outside of the public-school system it is not only hypocritical but self-destructive to deny them what we as adults simply will not do without. Having these festivals and events is important to our community and I am by no means suggesting that we displace the resources from one to the other but rather we use our creative thinking and plan for our children’s futures, as well. Music and the arts have been proven to be an irreplaceable part of cognitive development so let’s use what the public education system upheld for us to help save these same programs for our own child and the future of our community.
Several people commented at the budget reduction meeting that they understood it was necessary to make budget cuts, but is it truly necessary or are we just failing to look beyond state and federal dollars and unwilling to make the needed sacrifice in order to maintain and improve our public schools? We aren’t alone in this struggle; many other communities face these same challenges and more importantly they are doing something about it. I know that if we work together and put proven solutions to vote by public referendum, we can save our schools and the future of this community.
One such possible solution is a city sales tax. I don’t suggest that we add more hardship and cost to the necessities of life. Food, fuel, and utilities can be difficult enough to purchase for people struggling to make ends meet. What I propose is a .5-percent sales tax on other luxuries. If I can afford to buy a new car, I can afford to support public schools and our community. If I can afford to go out to dinner rather than eating at home, I can afford to support public schools and our community. If I can afford to buy a pack of smokes and a beer, I can afford to support public schools — you get the point.
If not a tax than let’s look beyond accepting the unacceptable, get creative and challenge our elected officials, the school administration, the School Board and ourselves to find a more self-preserving solution.
Miigwitch — thank you.