I was planning to write this column a couple of weeks ago, to persuade people to vote for the E-SPLOST. Then I decided to let folks make up their own minds. I understand why some didn't support the measure. I thought long and hard about it myself.
In the end, I voted for it because I am, at heart, a true believer in public schools. They're not perfect, by any means, but they are the great democratic equalizer, providing otherwise-unobtainable upward mobility for those who choose to take advantage.
Besides, I'm a public school grad, and look how I turned out. OK, bad example.
Beyond supporting public education in general, I've also been mostly pleased with the Gwinnett County Schools in particular. My children have thrived here, and I'm grateful for the experience they've had.
The quality of our schools doesn't just affect kids and parents. Everyone benefits in the form of higher property values. Yes, my home has lost a lot of value in the last three years, just like yours. But that's not the school system's fault. The fact that my home is still worth more than I paid for it --OK, almost what I paid for it -- is due to the fact that it's in a desirable cluster. And if we ever hope to see property values bounce back, we're going to have to maintain top-notch schools.
It takes money to do that, which is where the E-SPLOST comes in. Voting against it to make a point would be like voting for Obama because Mitt Romney's teeth are too straight. Besides, let's not kid ourselves. The schools are going to get the money they need somehow. Better a sales tax than increased property taxes. That way our neighbors in Hall and Barrow and Walton, who take all the close parking spaces at the mall, can help educate our kids.
That said, I understand why some people didn't want to tax themselves to raise money for a school system that hasn't always been the best stewards of those funds. It bothers me, just like it bothers a lot of you, that school leaders seem to think we're all stupid. (Which seems like an odd indictment, since so many went to Gwinnett schools.) The same politically connected developers profited obscenely from multiple land deals, and we're supposed to believe it was all an innocent coincidence? That's insulting.
In the end, though, I think school officials have learned their lesson. They had to be sweating this one. And even if someone deserves to be punished for all those questionable transactions, it's not the teachers and students, who would have been the ones to suffer had we withheld our tax money.
So once again I volunteered to fork over one percent of every purchase to support our schools. I'll be watching closely to see if they use it wisely.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. Email him at email@example.com.