An Open Letter to the Opponents of the School Safety Referendum


Graham Kanwit, Website Editor

Update: A previous version of this article contained math errors because the assessed values were labeled as homestead properties. These values have since been corrected thanks to a comment from one of our readers.

Dear Opposition,

An anonymous mail flyer currently being circulated in Center Grove claims that our school is ranked 270 out of 290 on unspecified “Indiana standards.” What standards? As an argument against the tax increase, the flyer also states that the school system already receives $6,000 per student. What the flyer fails to mention, however, is that the average school system spends $12,201 per student, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017. Center Grove already has a relatively low tax rate compared to other schools in the state. Complaints about the tax increase suggest an unreasonably high and antagonistic property tax. Rather, the referendum increase will be 11 cents per 100 dollars of assessed property value. A $50,000 home will pay $57.50 annually, a $100,000 home will pay $115.00, and a $200,000 home will pay $230.00.

I won’t pretend to understand what it’s like to be a taxpayer. I don’t know what it’s like to be you.

But you don’t know what it’s like to be me. You don’t understand what it’s like to be a student in 2019. When mental health issues affect our communities more than ever before, we need to take action. When students in schools across the country are indiscriminately, horrifically massacred every year, we need to take action. When students don’t feel safe in what should be one of the safest places on Earth, we need to take action. The tax increase is a necessary evil. This referendum is a necessity, not an option.

I’ve been a student in Center Grove schools since I was in seventh grade. Every year, I have seen an even greater need for safety and mental health reforms. I have seen my friends deal with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more. I have seen classmates burdened with overwhelming stress from nothing more than being a high school student in this day and age. 

I have seen fears and anxieties about the security of our community manifest themselves in nearly all of my peers. In 2018, I sat in an assembly a few months after the horrific Parkland massacre. I never thought I would see 2,500 pairs of eyes glued to the principal in an assembly. I never thought our school would have to explain what to do in the event of a shooting. To put it simply: we are terrified of going to school. That is a problem.

I have also seen my classmates demand access to greater mental health facilities. I saw my fellow students rally at a walkout last year in the aftermath of Parkland to demand action to promote school safety and protect against gun violence. The referendum’s proposed changes, such as the hiring of more police, security, and mental health professionals, as well as live monitoring and increased safety resources, have been supported by students for a long time. These changes weren’t conjured out of thin air–we demanded them.

This referendum is the only way to ensure that students in this community are protected by the best policies and resources possible. Our school has been fortunately prosperous and normally very safe. The referendum is a way to bolster that.

But let’s say the referendum fails, and something does happen to our students. If you didn’t do absolutely everything in your power to keep them safe, how would you feel then? Is the extra 230 dollars in your pocket still worth it?


Graham Kanwit