I have been chewing on the discussions in regards to the potential November tax referendum for the high school. To be honest, one of my challenges is to figure out what I require, not necessarily to parrot what someone else has said. Thus, my goal in making this list public is to get you chewing on your own requirements. On the chance that Unit 4 does indeed put forth a referendum in a future ballot, what prerequisites need to be met in order for you to support it?
Here is my list, in no particular order whatsoever:
- Exact amount of the referendum
- Updated enrollment projections (not the old ones from Dejong-Richter)
- Current capacity at each school
- A strategic plan that is adaptive and flexible. Back in 1969, Unit 4 had 12,381 students
- A correlation between the goods and services being purchased and the positive effect on graduation and all student success
- A financial plan that will allow us to build up for the next round of capital improvements
- A show of support for school funding reform, with clear and sound ideas on how to better fund the needs of the district
- Visible and documented actions that demonstrate the district and board are going out to the community to learn what the community desires
- A clear and comprehensive justification why the district absolutely requires 47+ acres for a new high school
Some are no-brainers; of course the exact amount of the referendum will be made known! But why is it not known now? The same point can be made for other items on that list (for example, #2, #3, #4). How are tax-payers and voters supposed to make informed decisions via a process of deliberation? Yes, I realize this is a constant battle between allowing community members to have a voice (of which I am obviously a huge advocate and proponent) versus drawing the line and making a final decision. But here is where I have a problem; over the past couple of decades, we have known we need to prepare and plan for capital improvements, but only in the past 7 years did we even start the most minimal of those steps (“Great Schools, Together”, taking out loans to build Barkstall and Stratton, using 1% Sales Tax money to build and renovate many elementary schools). We still do not have a 10-year plan, let alone a 20-year or 40-year plan. We still do not fully know how the finances will play out (part of the fault is with the uncertainty of federal/state funding). We still do not know why we can’t build vertically, or how new facilities helps struggling students.
Some of the items I have listed above are hard to measure (violating the tenets of SMART goals). What exactly makes a 47+ acre justification “clear and comprehensive”? How many “visible and documented actions” must the district and board demonstrate in order to check off item #8?
I hope to refine that list. If there were a vote today, I could not vote in favor.
In a recent email exchange via a certain email list that has a number of parents, in the context of a discipline issue one mentioned that perhaps more money should be invested into teaching kids about the ramifications of bad choices (this would be an awesome educational topic for adults, as well 🙂 ). That is a subject that really struck a chord with me. Ultimately the question of funding comes down to what is being accomplished. It is “easy” to build new facilities, staff them with adults and fill them with students. It is more challenging to build and generate a successful society.
What does your list look like?