Oct. 27, 2021
United Way Suncoast believes education combined with thoughtful policy serves as one of the most powerful tools for family stability and community success. For this reason, we endorse the Nov. 2 referendum renewal to support our students, teachers, schools, and community.
To achieve lasting impact, the community needs to engage in the success of all our children and a strong school district to develop the workforce of tomorrow. Voting “No” on the referendum will lead to the loss of teacher talent and support staff (including bus drivers) and ensure that Manatee County will struggle with the important work of educating our children.
Passage of the 2018 referendum has improved academics, increased the retention of teachers and other instructional employees and strengthened Manatee County’s largest employer (more than 6,000 employees). The added 30 minutes of instruction per day adds up to 18 extra days per-year. Over the course of a K-12 career, that can amount to an additional full year of instruction.
More time in school alone does not guarantee a student’s success. However, when half of Manatee County third graders cannot read on grade level, a critical milestone for school success, we know we need to think and act differently.
United Way focuses on creating equitable access to opportunities for all community members to achieve their goals. We partner with community, business, nonprofit, government and media on school readiness and grade-level reading initiatives for students and financial stability programs for adults. We help college-bound students apply for scholarships and provide financial coaching programs for their parents. Nearly all the families we serve are considered ALICE: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed. ALICE families live above the poverty line yet but stand one emergency away from a financial crisis. ALICE might be your neighbor, your colleague, your child’s teacher, or you.
The Manatee Schools referendum brings an opportunity to continue to support ALICE families, including households guided by teachers, school support staff and a variety of other valuable professions that create a thriving community. If the referendum fails, each teacher will annually lose more than $5,000. STEM and Career and Technical programs would be cut back, the arts wouldn’t get a boost and local charter schools would lose funding. Virtually every school district would take a significant pay cut. That would put our schools at a competitive disadvantage compared to Sarasota and Pinellas counties, who have each had the additional mill since 2002 and 2004.
Today’s kindergartner is tomorrow’s workforce. Their success is our future. It is time to ask ourselves “In what kind of community do we want to live?” For United Way Suncoast, the answer is simple, we want to live in a community where every person has the opportunity to succeed, through education.
That is why we ask you to vote Yes on Tuesday, Nov. 2nd for the Manatee County Schools Referendum Renewal.
Jessica Muroff, CEO
United Way Suncoast