Passing Eau Claire’s school referendum brings hope for the future

Supporting local schools is key to ensuring progress

More stories from Hillary Smith


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The Eau Claire school district referendum was one of 55 referendums to pass in this voting cycle. According to data from the State of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 67 total referendums were voted on.

Despite his lack of experience, despite the harsh, targeted rhetoric against marginalized identities he maintained throughout his campaign, Donald J. Trump is now the president-elect of the free world.

But how much longer will it be the free world?

Reports of harassment against the same minorities he targeted are pouring in from across the nation. If many people’s biased viewpoints do not change soon, the United States may topple into an abyss of hatred.

This begs the question: Where do we begin? What is our springboard into not only changing behavior, but the mindsets and understanding behind prejudiced mentalities and subsequent actions?

The answer is education.

School has continuously been an institution for young people’s minds to be nurtured and cultivated so when they’re released into the real world they have the skills and understanding to make positive contributions to society.

Changes start with baby steps, and the school referendum Eau Claire voters approved last week is more than a baby step. It is a full-blown leap toward progress.

Thanks to an overwhelming majority of votes in favor of the referendum, the Eau Claire school district will receive $87.9 million over the next 15 years, a $5.85 million annual sum.

As schools across the nation are seeing funds slashed, it is a sign of hope that the majority of Eau Claire voters wanted to see improvements in the school system. Data from the school district shows 27,036 voters supported the referendum on the ballot, significantly more than the 15,086 people who voted against it.

The funds will be used to make building improvements, provide technologies for teaching and learning, ensure optimal class sizes and put a compensation system in place to attract and retain quality educators.

After the election, several of my professors engaged the class in conversations about their thoughts and reactions to the outcome. They said the most effective action students could take if we were displeased with those who voted for president-elect Donald J. Trump was to engage them in conversation.

School is where these conversations start; it provides a place to sit and discuss them with diverse minds and a qualified individual leading the discussion. Without funding, education will go to the wayside and these conversations will never take place.

Luckily, Eau Claire recognizes, respects and supports the value of education. By passing the school referendum, Eau Claire voters initiated a change that looks to the future. As a community, the city decided providing the best education was important, which will carry significant, positive change into the future as skills are developed. People will come out of schools more thoughtful, aware and ready to make an impact on the world.