Haters Gonna Hate

I chuckled looking at the computer screen, nearly choking on my first cup of coffee.  Was that the best they could do?

This week our town held its annual budget vote.  In our tiny New England town, the residents have to approve the spending plan each and every year at the polls.  It’s called an automatic referendum.  When I first moved here I thought it was the craziest thing; in the Midwest, we would have to approve school spending every few years in what was called a “millage vote”.  In the district where I lived, they hardly ever failed.

Where I live now?  They fail routinely.  And since we have to approve a plan every year, it means we vote until it passes.  A few years back, that meant six votes.  We were voting so late that we were about to need an emergency loan from the state because the fiscal year was going to start before we had an approved budget.

It’s why, a few years ago, a group of people and I started an education advocacy group.  To help inform parents about the budget votes, to let them know what was really at stake and lost each time our town failed a vote.  We made phone calls.  We placed VOTE YES signs all over town.  We passed out flyers at the Dunkin’ Donuts.  One year, we held a rally on the Town Hall lawn and I was interviewed on TV.  It’s made my name well known around town.  I’m either a hero for protecting our kids or a pariah for reaching into taxpayer’s pockets, demanding more.

Last year, our teacher contract called for a wage freeze.  It meant that our school system could get by with little or no increase in funding.  So when it came time for the budget numbers to be released, we weren’t all that surprised to see no increase in funding.  Most years, this would have sent us into full fledged attack mode, calling press conferences and media outlets to express concern for the future of our students.  But our superintendent managed the flat budget without any damage due to the wage freeze.  Our group quietly supported this move, which turned the tables.

Suddenly, our support of a low budget was called into question.  How could we call ourselves advocates for education if we weren’t demanding more for our kids?  But we were realists.  We knew that in the current economic state, our tiny little town would never vote for an increase in funding for a system with a wage freeze.  We didn’t want to see further cuts if the budget failed, so we supported the 0 %.  And it passed, with flying colors.

We found ourselves in a similar position this year.  A low budget, a new superintendent who was brought in to keep quality high but spending low.  He promised the system could thrive on a flat budget due to savings elsewhere in the system.  We again threw our support behind this plan, again citing positive outcomes and economic reality.

This time, we earned ourselves some enemies.  And while none of them have yet spoken to me personally, they are out there, in my tiny little town.

How do I know? Because they are posting on the Internet.  Under false names, several (or one person using several pseudonyms) people are calling me and my fellow education supporters out on one of those microlocal news websites.  Giving each one of us who signed a letter of support for the budget a comical but derogatory nickname, they go on to tell us our days as education advocates are clearly over.

Fifteen years ago, this would have bothered me.  Ten years ago, when similar things happened on the Rick Springfield fan message boards and mailing lists, I would type out a very hasty and indignant response to whomever had criticized me and something I’d done.  I would be hurt, anxious, and unnerved by the idea that someone out there disliked me enough to take the time and energy to create a false persona and type angry words into their computer.

These days, it mostly makes me chuckle.  I figure I must be doing something right if I’ve gotten under someone’s skin that much. And I marvel at how I really don’t need to respond anymore.  I am satisfied with the work I did.  I am sure I made the right choice.  And I don’t doubt either of those things just because someone woke up at three in the morning and decided to spew some hate on the Internet.  That’s their problem, not mine.

It serves as a good reminder of how much I’ve grown, how far I’ve come in the last ten years.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: