Before I begin, I’ll take a second and make clear that I have no preference on what the nickname of South Burlington High School is. I can understand those who want to keep the Rebel nickname and those who want it changed, but I simply have no stake in the matter.
But I do have a stake in making sure my fellow students get a quality education. And when voters put this at risk by refusing to pass a budget, an issue arises.
South Burlington rarely rejects a budget, so it came as a surprise to me when the voted no for the second time this year. When voters came out in early April, it was more than just money on their mind; many were concerned with the shift away from the Rebel mascot. Elizabeth Allen, South Burlington voter, told the Burlington Free Press “It’s partially the Rebel thing. That played into my vote.”
And to some extent, this makes sense. A name change would cost up $170,000, which would be a hefty price to pay if one doesn’t necessarily agree with the change. This comes in conjunction with a 5% increase in the budget, as opposed to the last 10 years averaging 3.5%
If South Burlington residents are voting down the budget because they believe it is two high, that is legitimate. There is a valid argument to be made that taxes may just be to high, and if that’s the case, so be it.
But I don’t think it is. Infact, I don’t anybody really thinks its just about the money. It’s about the principle: the pride. Generations have played under the Rebel banner, and to see that change can be painful. So residents fall to the last resort of voting no on the school budget.
You had a vote and you used it, and in reality, there is nothing I could say or do that could change your mind. But I’d like to remind South Burlington voters that the only person that you are really hurting when you vote no in this circumstances is yourselves. Rather than ‘sticking it to the man,’ you only create a bigger divide in your community, and jeopardize the education of children.
As a student who has been in the district when the voters said no (albeit under different, understandable circumstances), it affects everybody. It spawns a feeling of uncertainty, which distracts from learning. Furthermore, if the price is right on the budget, voting no will only lower it, taking money away from resources within the district.
And there are other solutions besides a blatant no-vote. If you are simply against paying for the name change, consider working with community members who are in support of it to fundraise.
I understand that the loss of a beloved mascot or nickname can be emotional. If groups of people want to take action to preserve it, they have a right to. But going after the school budget is a cheap shot, and can only harm the South Burlington community. The children in your town deserve a quality education; regardless of the choice of the school’s nickname.
A school budget should be about the schools and the people inside of them, not a nickname. I urge South Burlington voters to reconsider their motives when voting on the school budget in the coming months. Keep the schools interest in mind, as well as your own.