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Echo Press Editorial: Keep school debate on the high road

Kids, education and money.

When those three topics mix, it can spark bad feelings all around.

Everyone wants what is best for the kids. They're the future. They're the priority.

Everyone wants kids to get the very best education they can. It's the backbone to how they'll live their lives as adults and their future success.

But money, that's the tough one — and a topic under heated debate in the Brandon-Evansville School District that's proposing to build a $38.75 million K-12 school.

There are a lot of deeply held opinions by those who support the referendum and those who oppose it. Groups urging residents to vote "yes" or vote "no" have been formed and each are making their case.

So far, it's been a mostly civil debate, but there have been angry exchanges back-and-forth, a minor act of vandalism (grain bags in Brandon sprayed with "vote no" messages), some inflammatory comments on social media and pointed attacks against the consultant the district hired and the consultant reportedly hired by the group that opposes the referendum.

The vote is only 35 days away (Aug. 30). We hope the debate takes the high road in the coming weeks. This is not a time for name-calling, for spreading false information, for making assumptions, or for thinking less of a neighbor just because he or she doesn't share the same views as you. (Remember, no matter which way the vote goes, you'll still be neighbors sharing the same community.)

It is a time for residents to study the issue for themselves, to look at how the referendum would affect them and weigh all the issues in their own minds before coming to a thought-out decision that's grounded in facts, not rhetoric or gossip or idle speculation.

It's also a time for cooler heads to prevail. At a Brandon-Evansville School Board workshop last Thursday, an architect for the project, Vaughn Dierks, said something that all residents should ponder.

Dierks said he has seen school referendums tear communities apart and that afterward, community members wished they didn't say some of the things they said to their friends and neighbors. "Be respectful in your communities," he said. "Be factual. Don't spread rumors. The school district is not trying to stick it to the community."

So get involved in the debate, ask questions, challenge hazy assertions, get informed — and then vote.

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Echo Press editorials represent the opinion of the Echo Press Editorial Board, which includes Jeff Beach, Editor; Jody Hanson, Publisher; and Al Edenloff, News/Opinion Editor.