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Gorches: Vote ‘yes’ to referendum, vote ‘yes’ for kids

Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune  

Post-Tribune sports writer Steve Gorches

Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune Post-Tribune sports writer Steve Gorches

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Updated: May 30, 2013 2:59PM



Here we go again. Kids’ educational futures are being held hostage in three Northwest Indiana communities, just like in three others in recent years.

On May 8, 2012, the Duneland School Corporation held its collective breath when voters made a choice whether to implement a property tax to save a teachers’ job and prevent the loss of programs.

But, as a Duneland community resident, I was very disappointed that it barely passed — 4,093 Yes votes (50.95 percent) to 3,940 No votes for a 153-vote difference. I couldn’t believe 49 percent of the people living around me in Chesterton, Porter, Dunes Acres and Burns Harbor didn’t care about the future of the kids.

And before anyone emails or calls me saying just because they voted no on that referendum — or the one that Crown Point passed by a much larger margin a couple years earlier, or the one in the Lake Central School Corporation to approve new school buildings that passed the second time it was presented to the voters — doesn’t mean they don’t care about kids, you won’t get sympathy from me.

These referendums aren’t some kind of conspiracy to squeeze more money from hard-working middle class families (a category which I also fall into). They’re needed to make up for cuts to school funding and changes to the way funding is distributed from property taxes to sales taxes by our not-so-awesome state government.

Public schools are caught in the middle with nowhere to turn except to hope that citizens in their communities remember that they were kids, too, at one point. So, as a parent of a high school student, I ultimately have the right to tell anyone who votes against these upcoming referendums that you dislike kids and should be ashamed of yourselves.

But hey, this is the sports section and what do the referendums in Munster, Union Township and Boone Township have to do with athletics?

Well, there’s a chance at least one of those school districts would have to cut athletic programs if selfishness and ignorance (No) wins out over sympathy and competence (Yes).

Not in Munster, according to the high school’s athletic director Brian Clark, though he is worried about plenty of other possible cuts if “No” edges “Yes.”

“We would probably have to lose some coaches,” he said. “The first priority is preventing teachers from getting cut. That’s what concerns us. Kids and education will be affected.”

There could be cuts in Boone Township, of which Hebron High School is the biggest individual part.

A frequently-asked-questions attachment on the Boone Township Schools website indicates there are multiple cut possibilities if its referendum is shot down, including a possible merger with another school district.

Say it ain’t so. Could you imagine Hebron High School merging with Kouts or Boone Grove?

Yikes! That’s considered sacrilegious in the Porter County Conference.

Some people may actually prefer to lose athletic programs than merge with a school that has been a rival for decades upon decades.

“We have not yet identified specific programs that would be cut,” Hebron athletic director Rhonda Walker said.

Hebron High principal Mark Lutze can relate to the process of, as he put it, “begging” a community to vote for a referendum. He lives in the Duneland School district and said he completely supported that one. He also sees some of the same misinformation in Boone Township that likely resulted in some “No” votes in Duneland.

“There are people saying the money is going to be used for baseball fields or something athletic-related,” Lutze said. “They just don’t understand.”

Thanks, Mark, for repeating those words that I mentioned last year when the Duneland referendum approached. Some people thought that school corporation shouldn’t have gotten the new FieldTurf for its football field to save money instead of asking residents to pay a little more property taxes. But the general fund and athletics are completely separate — that’s the law — and money in one can’t affect the other.

Then again, sports could take a huge hit at Wheeler High School if its referendum fails.

A source in the Union Township school system told me it’s possible sports at Wheeler would be eliminated. The person who didn’t want to go on the record said it wouldn’t just be a cut in coaches’ pay or eliminating assistant coaches, but just getting rid of sports altogether.

I find that hard to believe. That would be the most egregious transgression against kids by a school corp in the history of Northwest Indiana … maybe the whole state.

Athletics — as well as other extracurricular activities like orchestra, band, etc. — are needed by schools to keep morale on the rise. Otherwise, the kids would feel like prisoners or robots made to do school work without fun.

Our kids deserve a complete education, and that includes everything about the high school experience, from competing in sports to playing the viola to singing in choir.

If the homeowners of Munster, Union Township and Boone Township don’t understand that, like 3,940 Duneland School Corp voters didn’t last year, then they must have never been a kid.



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