That’s the prevailing attitude among the more-established residents of this town, the ones who moved here a generation or two ago to get a nice house in the suburbs. Now the kids are gone, usually not still living here, the house and the community is too familiar to leave, its value has gone up with the real estate boom of the last couple of decades, but maybe they didn’t save enough for retirement and they’re looking to dump all expenses. My family has been here for 20 years, so don’t start, okay?
But that’s the attitude that takes over whenever it’s time to raise the money for something that doesn’t affect them directly and personally. A new fire station? To hell with that; I live in a brick house. Replace the ancient water pipes? The water looks safe enough in my area. Keep the school budget at least stable? My kids are gone, I don’t even know any of these younguns, just that they keep pestering me for candy at Halloween. Twenty more bucks a year? Hell, that’s my slot machine money for the Foxwoods trips from the Senior Center. Them damn kids ain’t taking it away.
I just got back from a student-organized rally at Town Hall after the latest bombshell. Even with the last tax issue actually passed, by less than a percent, Town Meeting still didn’t see fit to avoid cutting another 10% or so out of the school budget, after several consecutive years of budget cuts.
No more sports - the hockey team that won the last 2 state titles is gone, so is the state champ girls softball team. No more extracurricular activities at all - the band that had been growing so rapidly and playing so well the last few years is gone. No drama club; those kids are cute but they’ll get over it. Everybody just go home or to your jobs at the mall at 2.
For a lot of these kids, mine included, the extracurriculars were the primary reason to go to school. The jocks had something to belong to, something to give them discipline and goals. The younger kids had a goal available of playing for the high school some day - that includes our famous Little Leaguers. Now, they’ll either be on the streets, or, if their parents can afford Catholic school or moving, they’re just gone.
The music and drama programs, and all the others, broadened their participants, too - they had something to belong to and goals to reach, too. Now, there’s no more reason to stay, no more reason to take pride in this school.
Just 5 years ago, the high school was on the US News & World Report list of the 100 most outstanding ones in the country. After years of erosion, it’s down to the legal minimums.
It’s too late for me to do much for my family about this - my son has graduated, and my daughter has just 2 more years. She wants to stay with her friends, and we respect and agree with that. It’s too close to the next school year for most other kids who’d want to transfer somewhere that gives a damn to do it, even if it’s affordable.
So, I hope you’re happy, all you smug, insular, folks who don’t accept that you have responsibilities as part of this community. The property values that you have counted on are about to plummet as younger buyers with children look elsewhere, and as the families with children look to bail out (there’s at least one other prominent Doper in this town with young, bright children, and I’d be curious to know what he’s thinking). With all the things that make a school system real stripped, and the support base for it leaving and not being replaced, it’s going to be another generation before it comes back - if that happens. This town had been a nice, stable, middle-class suburb, but it’s about to turn into a slum, where only old folks and poorer ones on their way up and out would want to come. Yes, there is some possibility of emergency funding from the state that would tide the system over for another year, but that won’t matter much - the problem is long-term and it isn’t going away.