As the school board mulls a new levy to replace the Youth Activities Levy, there are already rumblings of opposition (or is it just the rumblings of our editor?) to the "new tax."

There was a time when Ashland schools were held up as a shining example across the nation. But budget cuts and school closures have whittled down that reputation.

Losing students and state funding for years, Ashland's education leaders have been advocating for affordable housing in Ashland (to keep families and kids in town) and are in a constant state of lobbying for the next installment of the levy. The latest levy expires in June 2008.

The housing problem is too complex to lay at the feet of any single group, but more money for schools is a straightforward matter: If the people approve of education, they will vote for it.

The new levy would allow the district to spend the money on academic programs, in addition to extracurricular activities.

Some worry this change opens the door to money going to other academic areas. Where's the harm in that? Money for schools is money for kids, as long as we trust the board we elect to keep the kids' interests in the forefront. And if the money is needed for more mainstream education, we will be thankful we have it at all. The alternative is unthinkable.

There are many great things about Ashland that make it an attractive town. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Lithia Park. The visitor-friendly downtown. The great public libra &

oh, wait. Anyway, these all deserve support, but only schools are an across-the-board indicator of the health and vibrancy of Ashland. Kids cut through classes and beliefs. Only the schools truly reflect the town itself.

If home prices crash, we'll still have a great school system. If OSF moves to Portland, we'll still have great schools. If Lithia Park and the downtown are flushed into the sea, we'll still have great schools. But only if we continue to invest.

We elected the school board &

now let them do what we've entrusted them to do: Make Ashland schools as great as possible.