About 75 years ago, when I attended grade school during the Great Depression, there was no federal or state aid for education. The citizens of a school district paid to build a grade school, paid to maintain it and paid its teachers. My father worked for $2 per day and my parents lived in a two-room log cabin with an open-eave attic. There was no electricity, no indoor water, no indoor pluming and two woodburning stoves. The six kids walked or rode a horse 2.5 miles to catch a school bus to ride another 13 miles to school. But they educated their kids. We didn’t have a high school then because our parents couldn’t afford one. Somehow, we all made it and paid our own way as we did so.
About 50 years ago, when my three children went to school, there was no federal or state aid for education. The citizens of the three school districts where we lived paid to build, maintain the buildings and to pay the teachers. Each of our three school districts had one superintendent, one assistant superintendent and two secretaries. The students rode bicycles to and from school, including High School. Parking was provided for faculty only. I worked for $1,500 per month then, paid $3,000 per year for school taxes, and paid 7 percent interest on our $38,000 home mortgage, on which we had made a $7,000 down payment. My wife was a homemaker. We had one 19” TV set, one car and no A/C in the car or our home. We learned to “do without.“ Somehow we managed to pay our own way. But after our kids finished high school, we still had to pay $7,500 school taxes on our home, so we moved out of Illinois because we could no longer afford to live there.
Over the past 12 years, while my three grandchildren attended school in Cobb County, the school district received substantial federal and state aid for education. The district is debt free and pays all of the cost to build new educational facilities and to maintain existing facilities with SPLOST funds, about 40 percent of which are paid by seniors and visitors to our state. School district administration now consists of a superintendent, a deputy superintendent, eight assistant superintendents and 52 administrative staff members. Even though times are tough now, over 10,000 student desks are allowed to sit empty in 100-plus schools and no one seems to worry about it as new schools continue to be built.
Meanwhile, the average home price in Cobb County is now about $300,000 and the average school tax is about $2,000 per year. Many families have a 52” HDTV in their family room and smaller TV sets in every bedroom. Most family members now carry cell phones, many of them IPADs, and the average family cell phone bill is close to $100 per month. Homes in the area where I live have between four and seven cars on their driveways and the high schools now need 2,000 parking spaces for students. Our 16 high schools build million dollar athletic facilities with artificial turf football fields.
Yet taxed families whine and cry because seniors, with no children in school, are not willing to pay an equal share for the educating their kids. It sounds like our taxpaying citizens are really cutting their living expenses to the bone and still cannot make ends meet.
Well, I’ve got news for all the whining poormouths. If they somehow manage to cancel the senior citizen school tax exception in Cobb, the number of foreclosures will go up dramatically, half the senior homeowners, like me, will move out and the young families who come to visit them and spend money here while doing so will decrease dramatically. Business will suffer, some will fail and thousands of paying jobs will disappear.
History has proven that when the seniors leave, so does the money that they and their visiting children spend. When that happens, you’ll all find out what tough times are really like.
Jim Stoll of Kennesaw is a retired CEO of a business that he owned and operated in Chicago for 35 years. His business served as a consultant for design and construction of integrated electronic systems for education, business and medical facilities. He has worked with schools for most of his life, to advance the education of children.