Friday, May 16, 2008

The Bond and Busing

Almost all Wichitans would like to see the end of mandatory busing, for a variety of reasons. The USD 259 Department of Snake-Oil Sales has been hard at work promoting the idea that there is a direct tie between passage of the $350 million bond issue and the end of mandatory busing.

The USD 259 web page entitled "Bond issue supports the end of busing for desegregation" explains

With the end of forced busing, elementary students in the Assigned Attendance Area now have an opportunity to return to their neighborhood schools if they choose to do so.

“As more kids over time come back to their neighborhood to attend school, we will eventually need more space in those schools,” said Martin Libhart, Chief Operations Officer.

Without getting into issues like the savings to the district from ending busing, it is clear that termination of the busing program should not hinge on the passage of the $350 million bond issue.

There are nine schools in the AAA (assigned attendance area) and directly adjacent to the AAA.

Currently, none of the schools is at capacity. L'Ouverture is the closest with 350 students in a school with capacity for 360. Isley, on the other hand, only has 202 students in a school designed for 450. Among the schools* there is currently space for an additional 583 students before present capacity is reached.

There are very real concerns about ensuring that the schools in the AAA meet the standards as the schools in the rest of the district.

Under the bond proposal, three of those schools will receive no expenditures for upgrades: Gordon Parks (built in 2008), L'Ouverture (remodeled in 2004), and Washington (2003).

One school, Isley, will be completely replaced by a new $10 million elementary school even though it had a new addition built in 2005.

The remaining five schools would receive a total of $10,534,000 in new construction, for a grand total of about $20.5 million going for improvements in the AAA and adjacent areas.

That's 5.8% of the entire $350 million bond issue....or 26% of USD 259's unencumbered $77 million cash balance last year....or 58% of the district's $35 million annual capital improvement budget.

*This does not include Gordon Parks as USD 259 has no current information included in the bond plan

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