A Case of Community-Killing Capitalist Crap
This evening my parents discussed with me the plans for some upcoming events for Kayhi's senior class. At lunch today our class had had a meeting in the library about these things, and earlier in the evening my dad attended a parent meeting. Apparently the parents were told to ask their graduating children where they would want to hold their after-graduation party. Of the options my dad told me there were, I pretty quickly narrowed the original five down to two: the Bourough Recreation Center and the high school. Then my dad explained that we would be having the after-prom party at the Rec Center, so I said that in that case it'd make sense to have the after-graduation party at the high school. At this, my dad informed me that for the past two years, senior classes have had their after-graduation parties not at the high school, but rather at the Plaza mall, one of the places I originally ruled out (because it's pretty lame).
The problem with having the party at the high school, he told me, was that it was four times more expensive.
Yes, if what I hear is indeed correct, Ketchikan High School will charge its students to use their school building for a class activity.
You might say that a few hours after graduation, we actually won't be Kayhi students any more. Well, that's nice, but there is a point where the monetization of life must stop. In my opinion, this goes well beyond that point.
One of the few entirely socialized insitutions we havee in the United States is our public school system. There are indeed problems with it, and there are conservatives in this country who will stop it nothing to attack universally availible education - but on balance, U.S. public schools are a very good thing. Ketchikan High School is a government institution - funded by your taxes and mine (less my international readers). I have serious problems with a taxpayer-funded building making a business out of renting its space - and the fact that they would do this to kids who as of a few hours before were regular free attendees of the place is just a sickly ironic example of the situation.
Many community events in Ketchikan are held at government buildings, whether at the pool, Rec Center, or our schools. Children's sports organizations that have games at school gyms are charged for the use of the building. Local theatre and arts performances must pay to be in Kayhi's auditorium (seen at right). Children going to the community pool for fun have to cough up money to swim. All these things may seem pretty benign, and in all honesty some are - (swimming is really cheap) - but think about it: these activites do nothing to damage or incur further costs on these facilities. If they do, rest assured there are extra charges. These usage fees are simply additional taxes levied upon local organizations and citizens simply because they took the initiative to use community facilities.
You might say that it should rightly be that those who use the community facilities pay for their upkeep. Well, then, what is the point of their being community facilities? By that logic, it is not general taxation that should fund the building of a new pool, but rather only the contributions of swimming leagues and aquatically-minded recreators. Particularly in the case of the high school, the building will be sitting there regardless of whether the facilities are used for other activities. Instead of making its auditorium freely availible for local performances, Kayhi insists on capitalizing on its real estate to such an extent that organizations such as Ketchikan Theatre Ballet or First City Players are now actively seeking their own building, and they're requisitioning funds from - you guessed it - government. A new arts center might be a good thing, but the result will be that Kayhi's auditorium will move from being empty most of the time to being empty almost all of the time. Does anyone else sense the irony that not making community services entirely free could in fact be increasing the tax burden?
Charging these fees makes the cost of putting a kid in recreational sports higher. It makes the price of putting a kid in dance much higher. It leads to untold hours lost to organizational fundraising - hours spent by community members such as those of Kayhi's Class of 2009. If this community was just a little more welcoming, maybe parents could feel better about their children being engaged in constructive activites. If government made put just a little more committment into its projects, maybe no one would have any reservations about making a closer community.
The bottom line here is this: If we want to create an active, vibrant community in this town where recreation, self-improvement and even fun are availible to all, we need to commit to it. A good way for that to begin is for public buildings to discard their senseless usage fees. Perhaps then, graduated students could end their childhood education with good feelings towards their school.