Tollgate’s Five Dollar Revolution
For the price of a $5 footlong, Tollgate High students can park their car for a year in the school parking lot.
Toll Gate Principal Stephen Chrabaszcz said he decided to institute the policy for two reasons. First, to make the campus safer and reduce auto break-ins. Students would have to register their cars and license plates and use a sticker that will mark their vehicles as belonging in the Toll Gate lot.
Secondly, Chrabaszcz said, the parking privilege would be used as a way to discourage tardiness. Any student who is late for more than 10 days would lose their parking privileges for 30 days.
The $5 fee is being collected to cover the cost of the stickers and the recent striping of the lot; each student would have an assigned space, Chrabaszcz said.
But that’s too much to pay for some.
Michelle Foss, whose daughter is a senior at Toll Gate, said Wednesday that she already knows what she thinks of the plan. “I think it’s ridiculous to make students pay for parking at a public school we pay for and in a community where we pay taxes,” she said.
Foss, who has registered her complaints with school officials, said it’s mostly a matter of principle, but the school should be aware the many teenagers will have to pay the fee themselves.
“My daughter’s working for minimum wage,” she said. “Are they also going to charge the teachers who make a lot more than that? And is Mr. Chrabasczcz going to pay for parking?”
Foss told the Warwick Beacon:
She questioned what right the school has to implement the charge; whether faculty and custodians would be required to buy stickers and whether she would have to buy two stickers since her daughter would use her car or her father’s car depending which is available.
Chrabaszcz had some answers. He said she would need two stickers.
“He didn’t want to hear any of it,” she said. “‘This is the way it’s going to be,’ he said.”
Foss’ daughter Sharon, who is a senior at Toll Gate and enrolled at the Warwick Area Career and Technical School, said she needs a car in order to complete her internship program. She said students are talking about boycotting driving to school, an action she claimed would require the School Department to put on additional buses that they can’t afford.
Again….$5. But setting aside that Tollgate used to charge for parking and that other schools, include Warwick Vets, charge for parking, there is a deeper anger being exposed here.
You see, some of the parents argue that their problem with the fee is more over principle than the $5 price. They rightly point out that parents are asked to buy more school supplies than ever; pay more via PTO’s and PTA’s for school activities; pay more in property taxes year after year. And now $5 for parking? C’mon!
They have a valid point, but it seems remarkable that these parents who have, for the most part, grumblingly acquiesced to previous piling up expenses are finally inspired to revolution over five bucks a year. Perhaps this is the straw breaking the camel’s back. Be that as it may, the deeper problems cited aren’t going to go away if the Tollgate kids “win” this battle and keep getting their free parking.
For the simple fact remains that most school budget money is going to keep being put towards payroll and benefits, leaving less for everything else. That’s just the way it is. Yet, I’m betting that while the school budget or teacher contract haven’t brought parents to a school committee meeting, this $5 annual parking fee will. Who knows? Maybe that will get them interested in the deeper financial issues and they’ll start being more active in the future.
But I’m guessing that, if they win, the free-parkers and their parents will go back to spending their minimum wage money on their D-n-D coffees and $5 footlongs and won’t want to be hassled with that other stuff. How could we blame them? After all, they will have won their Five Dollar Revolution.*
*Credit to Dan Yorke for coining the term during his show yesterday.
ADDENDUM: We have these “$5 Revolutions” from time to time: little outrages–often stemming from larger problems–that put people momentarily over the edge. Yet, when the minute issue is resolved, the anger is alleviated and the outraged people feel as if they accomplished something…when they haven’t, really. It’s a form of populism and it helps illustrate an inherent problem within populism. A movement built on emotion (anger) or feelings (hope) instead of a concrete philosophy is resting on a perilous foundation. Maintaining emotion–or passion–at a high level is exhausting, especially if it is unfocused or unsupported by a framework of cogent thought.