Tuesday, March 25, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Community as in unity

Thanks to more people we can name or count, only a Sept. 16 referendum on the school election ballot now stands between local residents and their own stand-alone Jacksonville/north Pulaski County school district.

Like a glacier creeping across the landscape — perhaps a fitting analogy in the new age of the polar vortex — the movement for a stand-alone Jacksonville-area school district has relentlessly overcome all obstacles in its path.

Put another way, Jacksonville residents put the “unity” in “community.”

The Pentagon didn’t throw a dart at the map and decide to build what’s evolved into the world’s premiere C-130 Air Force base in Jacksonville — the city leaders competed for, donated land for and wooed the Air Force for the base, which opened in 1955.

These are the same people who won the base the coveted Abilene Trophy for having the most community support among Air Mobility bases in the country.

And neither did the state, the Pulaski County Special School District, the Joshua Intervenors or the federal courts drop by one day and ask if Jacksonville would like to break off from PCSSD and start its own district. It took decades of grueling work that too many felt would be an impossible accomplishment.

But the real work of educating our children and rebuilding our schools has just begun.

Residents have to pass the detachment authorization Sept. 16. They are also likely to be asked to approve a property tax increase, which will help the new district accomplish its goals while securing its financial footing. The good news is that the days of Jacksonville property owners being taxed only to see their money spent in other cities are over.

If all the decrepit 40-year-old school buildings are to be replaced, the new district will likely need a millage increase. Jacksonville’s residents have been generous about funding things for their children and to better education.

Jacksonville residents taxed themselves to build a swimming complex for the youth, and again to pitch in $5 million toward the Air Force’s Joint Education Center, a confederation of colleges that now sits at the intersection of Vandenberg Boulevard and John Harden Drive — testimony to what the community can do when it puts its broad shoulder to the wheel.