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Support parents by ending fair day

If you live in lower Carrollwood or Westchase, your School Board representative is Susan Valdes.

Brandon, South Tampa and New Tampa have other representatives, who are easy to find online. All of them can be reached at (813) 272-4045.

Call them if you're ticked off about today's school holiday.

Ask if they will pay $65, the going rate for a day of professional babysitting, so you can do what all good parents need to do right now, and that is to hold onto your job.

Or maybe you can drop your child off at one of their homes.

"I take care of my little granddaughter, and if I could, I would," Valdes said.

One of the others might be more available.

Of course, if you are a parent who looks inside the book bag, you know today is State Fair Day.

I've been bleating about this for years because I get so angry at these people who take my money and then pretend to be smart enough to educate my children.

The fair? On a Friday?

I won't even get into the astronomical cost of a day at the fair, seeing as kids get free admission passes for this special day, not including rides or food. Okay, I will. I'd still have to pay my admission, parking and other associated costs. Conservatively, that's about $50 for a family.

Most people I know don't have an extra $50 in the change tray. Some of my neighbors are on food stamps. Many others have their kids on Medicaid. One just quit her job — quit her job! — because she lost her bonus and could no longer afford child care.

Free and reduced-price lunch applications are up 6 percent over last year in Hillsborough County. That works out to 6,500 more children in the system, which now feeds more than 100,000 students at a discount.

But that isn't the point.

As I told Valdes, today is a workday for everyone in Hillsborough County except teachers, who just got monthly half-days for planning. I don't mind the planning time so much because if your child is in after-school care, you can still pick him up at the usual time. He just gets two more hours to read, throw a football or get bullied in the computer room.

But schools do not offer day care today.

So what do parents do?

"When my kids were in school, until the youngest graduated high school, I would always make arrangements on that day for my children to be taken care of," Valdes said.

You can argue, as some do, that the fair is educational. I'll argue right back that so are the zoo, the library and the science museum, all of which have Saturday hours, as does the fair.

Strangely, Valdes said (strangely being my word, not hers), she doesn't know of any outcry about the fair day. If anything, when they debated revisions to the calendar to make it more religion-neutral, old-timers rose up in defense of the fair day.

"It's hard to break traditions in a hometown," she said.

She's more upset about budget cuts that, among other things, might reduce summer programs from five days a week to four. How will those parents hold onto their jobs? And what about that fifth day of learning?

"It's important that we hear from families about these concerns," she said. "Some are going to suffer because of a lack of funding. I feel for them because there are some things we will not be able to do."

Okay, okay. I get it about funding. My son doesn't have a bus this year to his Choice school. Not enough money. I adjusted. But it costs me. It costs every working parent.

All the more reason to stop pretending it's a good idea to force those same parents to jeopardize their jobs one day every February because a long time ago, a group of good ol' boys did another group of good ol' boys a favor and they all rode the Tilt-A-Whirl together.

Here's an idea for a tradition: Go to the fair on weekends.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 269-5307 or sokol@sptimes.com.

Support parents by ending fair day 02/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:59pm]

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