The pandemic has turned the lives of countless children upside down. They come to my office with debilitating depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and plans. Supporting the mental, physical and educational health of these children is essential to their future, but also essential to ours as a community.
As a pediatrician for thousands of people at Kitsap, I am aware of the complexities and nuances involved in raising children and how physical health is something that teachers and administrators must deal with. People with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or severe allergies may face unforeseen challenges attending school on a regular basis. They need additional resources to keep pace with their healthier peers. Children with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia (difficulty reading), dysgraphia (difficulty writing), vision or hearing impairment, physical disability, sensory processing problems, or retardation speech also need additional intervention and support to learn effectively. As a weekly volunteer at Central Kitsap Schools since 2015, I have watched countless teachers, counsellors, learning specialists, librarians, teacher’s aides and other paraprofessionals provide these targeted resources to children in need.
That’s why the failure of a Central Kitsap School District tax in February caught my attention. School support levies — like the one now being offered for the second time to voters in the Central Kitsap School District — support many of these critically important positions.
I graduated from Olympic High School in 1991. The same funding issues that plague school systems today, despite years of change and legal challenges like the McCleary lawsuit, were with us then. . That year, a long teachers’ strike kept students out of school for an extended period. As the season approached for students to take the AP tests for college credit, a brave teacher crossed the picket line, opened up the school, and provided educational support for those of us who needed it. I have never forgotten his generosity. Thanks to his unwavering commitment three decades ago, my classmates and I not only passed our AP tests, but also earned undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Students educated at CK schools have returned to this community as doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, counselors, accountants, principals, journalists, electricians, plumbers, small business owners, legislators and more. Some of my classmates are now teachers at CKSD.
Recently, one of my own children was diagnosed with a progressive illness that will require school adjustment. Although not life threatening, as it gets worse my child may struggle to find success. I contacted the support specialist at the school my child attends. Since then, the care and consideration I have shown to my own child in need has been second to none.
All of these educational resources that go beyond simple classroom instruction require adequate funding. As my mother and I were discussing the issue of levies on the April 26 election recently, she asked me how pensioners on fixed incomes could possibly afford to pay more taxes. It occurred to me that others like her might not realize that this request is just a continuation of an existing fee. The district is proposing a two-year replacement tax at the current rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of estimated property value, which renews the district’s three-year tax that expires at the end of 2022.
The Legislature allocates resources to fund “basic education” for Washington state children, but the district said that does not cover the overall costs of running schools today. Levies fill the gap so districts can continue to provide after-school activities, including clubs, performing arts, tutoring resources and sports.
Admittedly, leaders at the Central Kitsap School District level this year have sounded deaf more often than not. In August 2021, board member Rob MacDermid apologized for offensive political posts on Facebook. The district’s handling of gender and equity issues, such as decisions on a “Love Has No Gender” poster and library book from a queer perspective, have left many members of our community frustrated and perplexed. But I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A second collection failure will not harm the administration or the school board; the victims are the most vulnerable in the system who really need it these days — our children.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “Educated citizens are essential to our survival as free people. This includes all the children of the next generation, especially those who need more than basic services, if we are to develop leaders who serve, represent and defend the fundamental interests of a society. I can’t ignore that what’s at stake supports the same teachers, learning specialists, counselors and principals who have moved heaven and earth over the past two years to ensure that your children and mine can continue to learn, grow and thrive.
Dr Niran Al-Agba is a pediatrician in Silverdale and writes a regular column for the Kitsap Sun. Contact her at [email protected]