I recently had an experience that reminded me of the value of our public schools. I met a mother, new to our city, sitting in the central office of Portland Public Schools with one child in her lap, another standing by her side and a third fidgeting in his chair and swinging his legs in anticipation.

I smiled at the mother and her children. Before darting to my meeting, I paused to ask, “How are you today?” The oldest one said enthusiastically, “We are getting ready.”

STAND UP FOR STUDENTS

After a moment, I responded, inquiring, “What are you getting ready for?” After glancing at his mother, he said excitedly and with hope in his eyes, “I am getting ready to go to school.”

Since that conversation, the little boy’s enthusiasm has stuck with me. This is one of the many reasons why I serve on the Portland Board of Education and have served for the past eight years along with my dedicated colleagues. Seeing the hope and excitement in this young boy, I can honestly say that they capture the importance of our work. The members of the Portland Board of Education are working together to meet not only the needs of students, but also to make a positive lasting difference for each child, every family and our entire community – our society. This is work we cannot afford to take lightly, and we each play an integral part.

Honestly, our work to provide every child – and I mean every child – the best educational opportunities possible is being compromised by chronic underfunding of public schools by the state. That is why the Portland Board of Education has voted unanimously to endorse Question 2 – the Stand Up for Students citizens’ initiative on the state ballot this November, which would generate an estimated $157 million more in state education funding.

GAME CHANGER

Maine’s current education funding formula forces local communities, like ours, to shoulder most of the costs of maintaining Maine’s schools, often through increases in local property taxes, cuts to programs and services or both. In recent years, more than $12 million in state funding for Portland Public Schools has been either curtailed or offset.

Out of our $103.6 million budget for fiscal 2017, the state contributed only $15.2 million, less than 15 percent of the overall budget. If Question 2 passes Nov. 8, Portland stands to receive about $11 million in additional state aid that is desperately needed. This funding will be a game changer for our kids, our community and cities and towns all over Maine.

As I was reminded when I met the young boy at the central office, let’s share in the excitement of all of our learners, whether they are starting kindergarten, receiving their high school diploma or celebrating their new mechanics certification. Let’s maintain their enthusiasm and develop lifelong learners. Their success means that we all succeed.

We have waited long enough for politicians to fix this problem. Question 2 is the solution, and the Portland Board of Education is unanimous in recommending that voters support this critical initiative.