Seeing these school close up is economically shortsighted, since rural communities fall apart and scatter to the wind once there's nothing there to hold them together. I still get a sinking feeling every time a pass the abandoned elementary school in Navarino Wisconsin. It closed in 2009. A nice school with a great playground and incredible baseball field. The building is now filled with junk and the playground and field is just a sad reminder of how families used to get together with their kids during and after school.
Which leads me to this heart breaking report by Chris Hayes about our rural public school problem.
From a fall 2007 newsletter still up at the towns apparently abandoned site, was this note about the preschools plan:
This fall brings many fun and exciting events for the children. Each year, in October, we spend a morning with the Kindergarten Student at Navarino Elementary during fire prevention week . The children really enjoy their visit a lot. We watch as a firefighter puts on all his equipment, they ask many questions and meet Smokey Bear. Then we get to go outside to see the fire trucks and all the big equipment. We were even allowed to climb up into the trucks and sometimes spray the hoses.Sadly, those memorable days are gone. Here's a recent opinion by Democratic Rep. Fred Clark showing us how we got to this point:
For rural Wisconsin, public schools are the hub of activity during the day, doubling as community centers, a place to exercise after work and polling stations for elections. Rural schools, with their mascots and sports teams, school plays and graduations, tie together generations and capture the story of an entire town.Thanks to Wisconsin Soapbox for the heads up on the Fred Clark column.
Unfortunately, we are poised to lose a growing number of those rural schools unless our Legislature reverses course. In the face of declining enrollment and huge cuts in revenue, rural schools are cutting programs, stretching staff with heavier workloads, closing schools and surviving on referendums year after year. In the outright war on public schools that the Republican majority has waged since 2011, with its $1.6 billion in public school funding cuts, our rural schools are becoming the first casualties.
In fact, of the 956 operating referendums that public school districts have placed on ballots since 1998, 73 percent have been for rural schools. Voucher schools alone currently absorb $384 million in this budget that would otherwise be available for public schools.