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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

education

Community gathers at education rally

Zoe Berenstein, junior from the Bloomington South High School, speaks in a Rally, “Yes For MCCSC needs YOU” on Tuesday evening at the Monroe County Courthouse. Berenstein shared how public education helped her improve language.

A young boy retrieved a dead dragonfly from the ground. He picked it up and looked through its wings toward the sun. Then, running through the grass, he began mimicking airplane sounds. He seemed unaware of the gathered mass, but they were helping make a decision that could affect him forever.

On Tuesday evening, YES for MCCSC had a kick-off rally at the Monroe County Courthouse Square. Adults and children gathered in support of a referendum renewal to supplement school funds using taxpayer dollars.

“Do we love our schools or what?” Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton said at the beginning of his speech.

The crowd cheered following his words.

Some of these people were present in 2009 when this first became an issue. School funds were cut throughout Indiana. The Monroe County Community School Corporation lost about $3 million in funding.

The president of the school board at that time, Jim Muehling, said it was a hard decision, but 88 teachers had to be cut. The board only had five months of notice of the budget cuts, he said.

“When you cut that many teachers, class sizes increase,” he said. “It creates ripples.”

In an effort to save the school district’s extracurricular activities and to provide students with more teachers, a community-led tax referendum was passed in 2010. That referendum added $7.5 million to the school district’s budget.

The referendum would last until December 2016 before it would expire. The time to vote for renewal is Nov. 8.

Muehling, now one of three co-chairs on the 2016 referendum committee, said the greatest thing they are fighting is voter apathy.

“This is number two on the bottom of the ballot,” he said. “We have people with yes in the mind, but we need that yes to be in the voting booth.”

That’s what the rally on a Tuesday evening full of ambulance and police sirens 
was for.

The rally opened with a band, the Limestone Beaters, consisting mostly of current or former MCCSC students. They strapped on their multicolored drums and guitars and began playing songs as the crowd began to gather with their signs, shirts and skirts all advertising the “Vote Yes” slogan.

Speakers for the event ranged from third graders to the mayor. One speaker was the MCCSC superintendent, Judith DeMuth, hired six months after the referendum was passed in 2010.

“In times where other communities have had to curve back, ours has stood strong and wanted to continue to provide a world-class education second to none,” she said.

Some of the speakers made jokes or called on the children standing behind them to echo their words, prompting clapping from the audience.

Hamilton’s speech, however, was more serious.

“I don’t have any jokes or any songs,” he said. “This is hard work. This referendum has to pass.”

T-shirts were being sold at a table, signs were being passed out and pamphlets of information on the referendum were being distributed. The pamphlets said 93 percent of the referendum money was going to support teachers and staff, while also outlining the rest of the funding in a pie chart.

The rally was meant to get the word out and to educate community members like Deborah Widiss.

“I think it’s really important to make sure our schools get what they need, not just for basics, but also for extracurriculars,” she said.

Widiss, a Bloomington resident and mother of a sixth grader, Alia Goldstein, at University Elementary, was there to support the referendum and to watch her daughter speak.

Goldstein approached the microphone like the other student speakers before and after her and explained why she enjoyed going to school and why the referendum needed to be renewed.

“School is a wonderful thing,” she said. “School is an amazing place for fun and education. Never forget that.”

There are more than 11,000 children in the MCCSC school system, the speakers continuously reminded the crowd. They repeatedly mentioned the benefits of this money: the jobs for teachers, the continued extracurricular activities and the betterment of children’s education.

They also mentioned how, even if the referendum is renewed, taxes will go down. In 2010, the referendum committee was asking for $7.5 million, but this year, they are asking for $7.3 million.

Behind the speakers, behind their words, were dozens of children holding signs that read, “It’s about my future.”

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