Crunch Time

It’s clear now that Oak Ridgers realize what is at stake as we await the City’s second reading of the budget, as thoughtful comments can be found anywhere that citizens voice their opinions.

In his letter to the editor in tonight’s paper, Al Denny offers a couple of options (excerpts below, but go ahead and read his whole letter from the link):

a property tax increase of $24 per year on a $120,000 house is a reasonable request and that the City Council should honor the school board’s request…

Page 40 of the city budget has allotted $865,000 for the replacement of vehicles. I believe that $500,000 of the $865,000 should be transferred to the schools for their needs…

I believe that the needs of children outweigh the need for new vehicles. In two years, first-graders will be third-graders, third-graders will be fifth-graders, fifth-graders will be seventh-graders. Education cannot wait, but equipment replacement can.

Well said, Mr. Denny.

Meanwhile, over at, AT has outdone himself, and I wouldn’t do him justice to paraphrase a bit of it, so go read the whole thing. At least twice. But he closes with a suggested letter to Council, for anyone who can’t think of what to say:

As a concerned citizen of Oak Ridge, I am troubled that the city council does not seem to be supporting its school system. It has come to my attention recently that a necessary, but unfortunate, budget increase requested by the school board has been denied, causing the school board to cut a half million dollars of needed services from their budget for 2007.
This troubles me, as I have always understood that Oak Ridge has a strong commitment to education. In fact, the election platforms of several members of city council (Jane Miller, for instance, mentions it as one of her top three issues in a 2005 Democracy for East Tenneessee questionaire) seem to indicate that the City Council shares my concern for the school system, and Oak Ridge’s future.
Please make the right decision. Now is not the time to try to lecture other officials on remaining within unrealistic budgets, because that only hurts the children and working parents of Oak Ridge.
Thank you sincerely for your time and attention, and for your continued efforts in our city.

It’s pretty easy to live inside the bubble that is Oak Ridge, but don’t think this problem has escaped notice outside the city. Dan Allcott, Director of Orchestras and University Music Director at Tennessee Tech, writes to the school board:

It has come to my attention that the 4th grade string instrument instruction program in the Oak Ridge City Schools is in jeopardy. As an educator, musician, and parent of a 3rd grader in a less fortunate school system, I must tell you that Oak Ridge is a beacon of excellence in the state of TN for String Education. At at time when all of our children are challenged by a media blitz of unsupervised an un-disciplined information, this program thrives. One of the reasons it thrives is because it starts at the age when students are still forming their social character and respond positively to the opportunity to do something special. The other reason is that the students are at a crucial juncture in forming their language and math comprehension abilitities. (Both of which are integrated with, and boosted by instrumental music-learning )

Please protect this valuable program.

A key point here is the releationship between early music instruction and math and language comprehension abilities. All four of my daughters play musical instruments — three violas and a saxophone. My oldest is a senior this year, and she has played viola in the Oak Ridge strings program since 4th grade, having had private lessons for only the last two years.

Academically, she excels in AP physics and calculus; she plans to major in Electrical Engineering at UT next year (but also plans to play in the UT Orchestra, as it gives her an outlet to relax). Thus far, she’s garnered two merit-based scholarships — one from the lottery, and another from the College of Engineering.

There is no question in my mind that her early music instruction played a key role in her ability to excel in these difficult subjects. In fact, it was just last night that she reminded me that, prior to 4th grade, she was in the lowest of five math groups and had difficulty reading.

I know that many others have had similar experiences, and it is uncommon to find an orchestra student who is not also an honors student.

And, in deference to those in our fair city who do not have children in school, Joel comments on AtomicTumor’s post as follows:

And if you don’t have kids, or they’ve graduated, you owe it to yourself to keep your property values up. Let’s say that $30/yr on a $150K home is the price of housing price stability. OTOH, without the $30/yr, the reputation of OR schools slips, let’s say that home prices drop an average of 5%. That’s $7500 on a $150K home. In this scenario, $30/yr is a bargain.

Even if prices only slip 1% in five years, it’s a wash.

And none of that counts the possible impact of local sales taxes and business development.

Thanks for the hope, guys. This city really is populated with a lot of neat people (including a few like Joel, who have left but remain Oak Ridgers regardless).

1 thought on “Crunch Time

  1. One of the things thats really been burning me about this is that my oldest kid is going into the 4th grade next year. He’s thrilled about the prospect of playing in strings!

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