Monday, September 29, 2008

In Review

I received an email a few days ago requesting a short summary of the the arguments against the bond issue before early voting starts. For a quick 30 second summary, take a look at the Wichitans for Effective Education ad here.

There are four main reasons to vote against the bond:

1) The bond is too big and bloated.

One of the many claimed purposes for the bond is to reduce overcrowding. The enrollment at USD 259 has been relatively flat for the past 20 years. Existing grade schools and elementary schools are not being used at full capacity, while an additional new high school could easily be constructed using existing funds.

The tax increases from bond passage would result in Wichita property taxes for education being higher than both Maize and Andover. For a district trying to stem the flood of students leaving the district for Maize and Andover schools, this is a recipe for disaster.

2) The bond plan is based on the wrong priorities.

The schools that are performing worst academically, the ones failing state achievement standards, are receiving less than 5% of the bond funds. Most of the funds that are going to those schools are earmarked for athletic facilities.

Similarly, the assigned attendance area (AAA), the area of assigned busing, is also being short changed. Less than 5.8% of the bond funds are destined for the schools in the AAA neighborhoods.

3) Passage of this bond will be positive reinforcement of the failures of the USD 259 leadership, further setting back real accountability.

Not only did USD 259 fail to protect our children by adding FEMA shelters during the last round of construction, the overall performance of the educational mission of this district has been substandard. Nearly 25% of students in USD 259 fail to graduate.

The district insists on playing games with district boundaries to separate economically disparate neighborhoods rather than putting kids first and easing localized overcrowding at some schools.

Nearly $7.5 million of the current bond proposal will be spent on facilities that are less than five years old. Not only is this costing tax payers, but it points to a startling lack of foresight by district leadership.

4) The behavior of the School Board and others connected with this bond raise questions about the veracity of the BOE and motives of the bond supporters.

Any hope that the Board of Education might be interested in listening carefully to community concerns when out the window when they changed the date for the bond vote (and added $10million to cover 'inflation' because of the delay) because it looked like their side was losing.

The board then turned over authority to make decisions of the shape and form of the bond to a secretive group of bond supporters, while stonewalling bond opponents seeking simple information, such as the number of classrooms in the district.

A quick look behind the curtain reveals that the money behind the vote yes campaign is really just the usual group of architects and contractors, many of whom don't even live in the district. In fact, the spokesperson for the group doesn't live in the Wichita district.

Happy voting!


Partofsolution? said...

My question is how many of the people that oppose the bond are going to site council meetings or steering committee meetings, etc. The bond was not brought about by a person in the "ivory tower" waving a magic wand. It was brought about by groups of parents, students, teachers and administrators looking at specific needs, in specific buildings. Capital outlay money can not provide all of the funding that is needed for all (or most) of these projects. When one of the committee groups get together, they talk about what we can do for OUR kids. These kids are OUR future and they deserve the best that WE can give them.
The schools, city, and world are all changing and the need for us to rally behind our schools is now. Schools, and our community, expect much more than they did of us when we were in school.

There are several intiatives taken on at various levels of high, middle, and elementary schools. These intiatives are working on academic achievement, student/family connectedness, student drop out rates, and in many other areas.

The place where these opinions of "I support some, but not all," needed to be in these various committees, that the whole community was allowed to take part in. In these committees, items that were deemed more of a "want" than a "need" were taken off of the facility master plan when it was first being presented to the Board of Education.

If you vote no, what are you going to do to fix the issues that you bring up? If you believe that academic achievement is important - what part of the solution are you being? Every vote counts - but beyond your vote - what are you doing to make the students in OUR community successful?

Anonymous said...

Partofsolution makes some valid points. There was time for community input and it was given but not heeded. Committee members were "by invitation only" So the people that crafted the original and final proposal were hand picked by USD 259 and BOE elected officials.
No matter how well intentioned they were they forgot to consider the taxpayers' burden.
If money were no option some of these "needs" might be ok but I still fail to see any connection with student achievement.

a parent and teacher

Anonymous said...

I am also a parent and a teacher and I had an opportunity to have input into the decisions for my building. In my sons building they are getting some much needed instructional space. They have been doing intervention in foyer's, hallways, in addition to classrooms. As a teacher, I have seen much better results in smaller focused groups. For me, the bond is about academic achievement, and the connectedness to school (through working with and mentoring students, as well as athletics and fine arts).

The Boondoggler said...

Anyone who believes this bond proposal was generated at site council meetings and steering committee meetings has their head in the sand. In the fall of 2005 the USD 259 Board approved $100k for Schaefer Johnson Cox and Frey to initiate development of a Facilities Master Plan. The people who stand to make the money on this bond are the ones who identified the 'needs'.

Jordan said...

Hmmm "boondoggler," maybe your head is stuck somewhere too. In my school, schaffer, blah and blah, were not even mentioned. We were asked to come up with a list of needs for our building and prioritize that list, based on the needs of the students and community. I didnt realize that this plan started that long ago. It is interesting that the school district would take three years to put together a proposal. It makes me appreciate even more the time that officials took to look at each schools priorities and put them in a plan that would benefit students in so many ways. It makes me also appreciate that the district isnt asking for a blank check and has published information about what each school would receive if the bond passes and whether it would be funded out of capital outlay funds or proposed bond funds. Its not like we have signed a $700 Billion check with no say in how the money is being used. Maybe if you got your head out of whereever it is stuck, you would see. I wont look for it to happen, but who knows - wonders never cease.