And here is what I sent to my provincial representative today. I have decided it is time for me to become that curmudgeonly letter writing crank I always suspected I would turn into some day:
One of the questions that I have been asking myself lately is why parties like the NDP have so much difficulty gaining ground among rural voters. I think one of the reasons is simply that they do not have access to many of the programs that we are funding with their tax dollars. Funding for arts and culture is perceived as going almost exclusively to urban areas.
I have been involved in a lot of cultural activities over the years, including youth theatre productions and other educational activities for youth, folk dance, storytelling, and events promoting local writers. One of the biggest difficulties for those of us who try to organize cultural activities is the lack of affordable space, both for events and for ongoing rehearsals and meetings. This is difficult even in Edmonton, but much more so in rural areas where there are few venues for a group to meet.
Schools play a huge role in providing a space for cultural activities, as well as athletic activities, and many other things that help create vibrant communities. The decision on whether to support rural schools is not just about efficient use of our tax dollars. It is about supporting vibrant rural communities where families have a place to get together and engage in the activities that matter to them.
There is also a strong environmental case for rural schools. Start with the extra distance that children must be bussed. Then add on the extra distance their families must go every time they pick up their kids from an after-school activity or meet with the teachers. Assume that some of those kids who can no longer take part in sports and cultural activities that were hosted at their school will not simply miss out, but will be driven further to take part in activities elsewhere. It adds up to a lot of extra fossil fuels, and a lot of extra time for people with their butts in the seats of vehicles.
The Ministik school, right here in our riding, is currently being considered for closure. I am sure that you are keeping abreast of the situation, but I want to encourage you to truly look at the whole picture here. It is my sincere opinion that our province could use more small rural schools, not fewer.