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A grand gesture in support of public schools PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 17:44

Wisconsin has cut aid to public schools more than any other state over the past two years, according to some statistical comparisons.

    That was the doing of the state Legislature, however, and it would be a mistake to conclude from it that the people of Wisconsin do not understand the need to adequately fund public education. There are many signs to the contrary at the local level.

    A few examples:

    In school districts across the state, more school spending referendums were approved by voters in the 2012 fall election than in any Wisconsin election in recent years.

    In the Port Washington-Saukville School District, school board candidates who campaigned on cutting teacher compensation were trounced in the 2012 spring election.

    At Port Washington High School, a magnificent Steinway concert-grade grand piano graces the auditorium stage.

    The last example requires some explanation. The piano was not bought with tax dollars. It was bought by people who pay their fair share of school taxes but then gave more in the form of donations to enrich the music program in Port Washington-Saukville public schools.

    More than $65,000 was raised by the Music Boosters to buy the Steinway. This was not a case in which a few donors stepped up with big checks. Rather, the money came in hundreds of small donations from people who simply wanted to do something for students beyond the school support required of all citizens.

    The result, officially unveiled in a concert Saturday night, is not only an utterly splendidmusical instrument, but a gleaming symbol of the community’s commitment to public education. The piano, 13 years old (barely broken in as concert pianos go) and in perfect condition, is the Steinway model—a Model D Concert Grand—that can cause concert musicians to go weak in the knees in appreciation of the lovely quality of its sound. It replaces a worn-out grand piano that was nearly a century old and unfit for serious performance. The new Steinway will be available for use by students in all Port-Saukville schools at the discretion of their teachers.

     The wrong message to take from this achievement would be that it somehow demonstrates that school districts should be prepared to seek private funding when tax revenue is insufficient to adequately support school budgets.

    Public schools should exist wholly dependent on public funding. That’s the idea—universal education paid for by everybody. When tax revenue is inadequate to support schools at a level necessary for quality education, it’s not a sign that private resources are needed, but that the Legislature is not fulfilling its obligation to provide sufficient state aid and flexible enough limits on local tax levies.

    A piano as costly the school district’s new acquisition is not essential, of course, and no one would expect funding for it to be included in the school budget. It is an enhancement, a marvelous one, that will benefit music students and those who hear their performances for generations to come.

     The piano should also be seen as a testament to the public’s high regard for the admirable music education program in Port-Saukville schools. That appreciation is regularly shown in standing ovations at the excellent school band and choral concerts that showcase student talent and elevate community culture. Now it is also being shown by the presence on that auditorium stage of a truly “grand” piano.



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