No place for politics

No place for politics

June 22nd, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

It would be ludicrous to expect government employees to have no personal views on issues such as tax increases for schools. But officials at some schools in Bradley County are expressing those views in inappropriate ways -- through the use of presumably taxpayer-maintained marquee signs on school property.

For example, under the words "North Lee Elementary/A School of Excellence," that facility's sign reads, "Support Our Kids/Vote Yes For Wheel Tax."

North Lee may well be an excellent school, and there may be plenty of room for debate among people of good will about the proposed $32 wheel tax, which is on a referendum on the Aug. 2 ballot. Moreover, no individual need apologize for having or expressing an opinion on the matter.

But the use of the signs outside multiple Cleveland and Bradley County schools to argue in favor of the wheel tax is needlessly divisive and ill-advised. Suggesting that voters -- including undoubtedly many parents of public school students -- who oppose the tax do not "support our kids" is insulting. They may simply believe there are other, more effective ways to promote and fund education, and they shouldn't be made to feel as if they were "anti-kid" for thinking so.

But whatever the reasons behind support for or opposition to the wheel tax, it's unwise for a school to use taxpayer-funded or -maintained equipment to give an official endorsement of one side or the other in a clearly political dispute. It invites trouble.

Schools in Cleveland and Bradley County should remove their wheel tax advocacy from their marquees. If they don't, parents and other taxpayers should contact the schools as well as school board members and make it clear that there is a place for overt and controversial political statements -- but that it isn't on the signs in front of the schools.