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Local view: Educate yourself before voting on Esko school referendum

I am a parent, resident, teacher and coach in Esko. I am also a graduate of Esko's Lincoln High School, which means that with the exception of some years away for college and my early professional experience, I have spent my life in Esko. Since childhood, no matter where I have been, I always have felt very proud to call myself an Eskomo, a feeling I hope others share about their hometowns. Local pride and my concern for the future are motivations for writing this. But my primary reason is to encourage readers who live in Esko to perform their civic duty by becoming informed about two very important school-related questions on the ballot on Nov. 6.

The Esko public school district is seeking a minimal tax increase to maintain school programs and to improve ridiculously outdated outdoor athletic facilities. There is no doubt of my bias. I believe my children, school and community deserve both questions to pass, but I'll reserve my powers of persuasion for another cause. When it comes to Esko's educational levy and referendum, I ask voters to gather information, analyze that information, make up their own minds and then vote their conscience.

I ask that they perform their duty as citizens the same way I ask my social studies students to do.

I've witnessed multiple levies and a referendum question fail in Esko, and I've been disappointed each time. But my No. 1 disappointment has been that most voters have known very little about what was being proposed. Despite repeated mailings, well-advertised public information sessions and an abundance of media attention, innumerable voters told me they voted "no" in the past because they hadn't been informed well enough.

Whether inclined to support the levy and referendum or not, Esko residents should please make every effort to attend the next informational meeting in the high school theater on Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. Unbiased data will be provided, and questions will be answered credibly. The Esko school district is among the lowest-funded districts in the state. Come and find out why and what impact that is having on our kids, school and community. Learn about past and future budget cuts and the resulting consequences for students, parents, homeowners and citizens. Come look at the outdoor sports facilities, talk to the School Board members about the need for additional community support, and hear from school administrators who oversee district operations.

At the very least, and if attending informational sessions is not an option, look for upcoming mailings related to these questions and familiarize yourself with Esko Pride, an online network of Esko residents striving to get accurate information to voters.

Esko's successful traditions in academics, arts and athletics exist, in part, because Esko's cornerstone is the school. The next step in preserving this tradition involves getting knowledgeable about the upcoming levy and referendum. Pleading ignorance is not acceptable. Voting "no" to a very minimal tax increase without knowing what's at stake would be a shame. And passing along inaccurate, secondhand information is unfair to our children.

Casting an educated vote should make you an even prouder Eskomo.

Scott Antonutti is a teacher and coach in Esko.