NIMBYists or Patriots? Muncie Citizens Refuse to Fund School Buses

When does fiscal frugality cross the line and enter into the realm of outright NIMBYism -- NIMBYism that will in time come at far greater cost to us all?

Muncie, Indiana, my childhood home town, is a small city a scant hour northeast from its capital city, Indianapolis. This city, as represented by the masses who stepped up to the polls, is the 21st century incarnation of a community once studied and documented as "Middletown" America has joined sporadic other communities in showing an unwillingness to fund its children's school buses, in a referendum held November 5. What Muncie voters Just Said No to was an annual tax increase of about $39 (less the following year) for an average area household, roughly $3 per month.

That's 12 quarters per month to get all the little ones to school, which Muncie citizens nixed.

A 12-quarter-per-month tax would have allowed for the school buses to continue to deliver their children en masse to schools each day. Not only that, it would have reinstated after school and field trip bus transportation, which this community has not offered its children for the last few years already. Extracurricular groups and activities and after school care accommodation were already compromised in this tangential anti-education (I will never forget Sarah Palin using "professorial" as an attempted Obama insult) manifestation.

Have any of the naysayers considered that their -- and I mean "their" in the larger, communal sense, which I am not sure naysayers get -- children might have to:

  • walk to their schools in the dark, dark mornings that exists for most (but not all) Indiana's counties (see my previous HP post,"Indiana's Time Zone SNAFU")
  • be further subjected to vehicular and criminal occurrences that pepper local and national news all too often now as they are forced to walk to school when until now it was bad enough to make them stand in the dark at street corners to await their buses?

But let's face it, the days of children all walking to school are over in these mid- and large-sized communities. Safety concerns and overwhelming reliance on our vehicles will have children being taken to school in cars.

Have any of the naysayers considered time?

Car lines are tedious, time- and gas-guzzling parades of cars, idling and alternately creeping forward in long, slow-moving lines as children and their ponderous backpacks are hoisted -- usually one at a time -- out of cars. Implementing car lines at schools that have not been laid out for this kind of traffic, with circular infrastructure or access roads of their own, will clutter streets, intersections and property frontage of nearby residents and be even less efficient than what I as parent have on occasion had to experience when shuttling my child in a much larger school system where access and drop off areas were far more accommodating.

What parent has spare time, really and truly? What parent needs to be at work? What parent is not there to take their child? And when winter hits? Just ask any Muncie resident about the city's hit n miss snow removal services, where packed ice and snow often sit til Spring. What children will now be transported in private vehicles without appropriate, legally mandated restraints, a red-state statistical issue? Most households with children will muddle through, as is usually the case. A few households will have an at-home parent, available to take Junior to school in a safe, timely manner. But that is the exception these days, certainly for economically-challenged communities like Muncie, Indiana.

Have any naysayers considered cost?

Gas: A cheap day at the pump is at this point a $3+ per gallon purchase. Naysayers need to get their calculators out and consider 180 school days per year means 360 trips per school year. Naysayers must not only calculate the mileage to and from the schools, they need also add to that a minimum of 15-20 idle-n-crawl minutes per trip. I have a vision of many more quarters than twelve measly ones flying out windows....

Have any naysayers considered environment?

The exhaust of twice-daily lines of idling cars will produce the clouds to blanket school parking lots and playgrounds that will spread to surrounding properties in a mid-size city where schools are located immediately next to to streets and homes, buffering zones and setbacks not having been considered....

And have naysayers thought about the cascade effect our collective future holds in their refusal to protect the right of every child to receive his or her education, which in this day and age also means making sure they get to school?

Let me put it this way, and pardon me, but it won't be a pretty bit of text:

The kid whose lone parent is off at work, or in a chemically-enhanced sleep, crashed on a bed somewhere in the home, will be left to his/her own devices to make his way to school. The chances of this kid getting to school will decrease over time as the child's incentive to go to school decreases as the reality of the difficulty to just get there increases, be it weather, be it distractions, be it danger. This kid, who did not have the best chance to score on those achievement tests or graduate from school in the first place will inherit only chances that will lessen over time. That kid, once dropped from the educational system due to no-shows, no-scores, lost-cause unfortunate reality, WILL BE the same kid who, on the night some erstwhile naysayer is crossing the street, will mow said naysayer down with an uninsured, unlicensed vehicle he will have stolen or borrowed. Or maybe it will be that the no-show, no-score, lost-cause unfortunate reality kid is the one whose bullet or knife blade will come back to quite literally bite said naysayer in the ass.

To quote Aaron Sorkin, education is the silver bullet. Education is the one solution to vanquishing the monster that is reactive behavior and its consequences, as borne of the toxic mix that is ignorance and hardship and the resentment it feeds.

We -- you and I -- have a moral obligation to educate our children. Our children have a right to be educated. And we need to make sure the children can get to school. All of them.

Yes, as the naysayers complain, I know politicians and government are vastly flawed and anything but a conglomerate of the meritoriously appointed. But is that anything new? No. What is new, and what needs to be finessed, is this blanket fiscal naysaying and flat-out denialism of its consequences, as rationalized by a Tea Party obstructionist agenda that is founded on a misguided interpretation of 18th century retaliatory individualism. We are, or should be, on the same team where our kids are concerned.