We are not going to venture a guess as to how the vote on school choice in Alna will go, or give anyone advice on how to vote.
However, the tone of the debate about school choice – like the tone of the debate about the little construction project next door in Wiscasset – concerns us.
No one in Alna seems to be listening to anyone on the opposite side of the debate.
The supporters of the status quo refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of concerns about the policy’s impact on property taxes and the potential for this impact to grow.
Many supporters of the status quo – the same people desperately fighting for the current policy to stay in place – refuse to acknowledge that the policy serves as a strong attraction for young families to move to Alna.
On the other side, advocates for a change in the policy refuse to acknowledge that the change would strip a valuable benefit from residents.
They refuse to acknowledge the impact it will have on growing families – and it will have an impact.
Imagine this scenario: a young family buys a home in Alna. The property taxes are high, but the family chooses Alna over other towns because they want their toddler-age child to attend private school and they can’t afford the tuition.
They plan to have more children – perhaps are even expecting – and the town changes its policy. Now the toddler can go to private school, but the younger sibling and any others to follow cannot. The family then has a difficult choice: to separate the children or send both to a public school.
Each side of the choice question has an attitude of “my way is right” rather than “this is my opinion.”
We would submit that there is not a “right” or “wrong” side of this question.
Alna has a novel system of school choice and is going to decide – once and for all, we hope – whether to uphold it.
It is not a question of morality. It is a question of educational philosophies and fiscal management in local government.
Many towns in rural Maine would love to have the “problem” of being too attractive to young families. But perhaps Alna, with its teeny-tiny tax base, is the wrong place for such an experiment.
The people of Alna will settle this issue next week, but after the vote they will still be neighbors. The more acrimonious a debate like this becomes, the more difficult it becomes to move forward afterward.
The acrimony in Alna and Wiscasset is reflective of the acrimony present across our country.
We don’t listen to each other anymore. We only engage with others who share our beliefs, and dismiss everyone else.
We used to think we could avoid this state of affairs in local government. The state of discourse in Alna and Wiscasset makes us wonder.
On a related note, next week’s edition will be the last before the Alna vote. We will continue to accept letters on the referendum and the election, but will tighten our standards considerably.
We will not accept any letters with questionable statements of fact or any letter someone on the other side might wish to rebut before the vote, as this opportunity will no longer be available.
As always, we will reject any and all attack letters, this week and every week. A political letter to the editor should make an argument for the candidate the writer supports, not against the candidate the writer opposes.