Rock to Read gathered fabulous and quirky musicians and song writers in a spot-light lit room full of books, authors, teachers, parents, kids and auction items. The benefit was to try to buy books for school libraries since state budgets eliminated library fuding last year.
Hard to believe something as basic as books have to be bought through benefits and bake sales. But that's what we've come to. Many kids are going without some of the key tools they need to succeed.
And yet now, as bad as this current year has been for crowded classrooms, cuts in teacher pay and loss of student class time, we're looking at an even deeper crisis in the year ahead. Just to keep school budgets at the level of cuts we had last year, we'd have to raise taxes (temporarily for a year or two until the economy recovers) by more than $300 million dollars. (That's like taxing business and professional services with a sales tax for the first time or like a penny and a half increase in sales tax or a percent and a half more in income tax for a year.) If we don't raise taxes (since we won't get another federal stimulus like the ones that saved us the past two years) then we have to cut schools yet deeper.
Can you imagine struggling kids after another year of even deeper cuts and even larger classes and less teacher time? Can you imagine not funding schools to hire the 200 new teachers we need just to guide class rooms filled with the 5000 new students who showed up in the state this year?
Is there not a finite limit to the number of bake sales and benefits a school can hold?
This is the poem I read at Rock to Read Benefit Friday night.
I dream of Idaho on fire.
I don’t mean the incendiary flame of combustion
I mean the simple spark of some saintly prayer that our schools will fly.
I sleep blocks from the capitol, that marble palace
with wings that could have lifted classrooms, libraries, teachers and minds
from survival to spiral orbits of aspiration
where children would dance with spirogyra
microscopes would raise mitochondria and mitosis to the heavens of the known
where English would flow with French, Russian and Chinese from the red lips of scholars
where numbers would glow in galaxies of geometric gem stones
where formulas and proofs would speak like poetry
When I sleep under the huge white pine in the turn-of-the-century Victorian that creaks
in the wind and with the whisper of tectonic secrets
our schools do spark and fly
lawmakers plot to proliferate brilliance, invention and art.
We’d fund mock courts and student Senates
celebrating teen poets and novel writers, making heroes of young physicists
and the teachers
who inspire it all again
But I sleep still
strange slumber of frightful dreams where a marble building sinks deep in a mire
political pandering screams
and teachers cry over stacks of papers in the wee hours of the night
where there through the fogged glass students wait with hands raised
in row after row of desks.
But I stand here
for in waking I swear I dream for more
just as you dream.
We imagine Idaho on fire
minds sparked to lift a marble dome from the depths, high up over the trees to the sky.
With you I'll not rest as long as books must be bought by benefits
and marble wings and shiny new highways stretch to each horizon.
I will dream.
I will dream in the marble building.
There I will beg others to dream.