Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Schools, spending and Savage

It's been one week since voters across Minnesota dribbled into their respective polling places to vote on the most local of all issues, city government and school board/school bond referendums.

Of course, the big draw was for cities and school districts asking for an increase in school referendums. The money being asked for was for a wide variety of purposes ranging from new school and technology to a general increase in spending money for students.

One area community in the southern Twin Cities (Prior Lake) had a failed referendum which led to the resignation of the district's superintendent. Of course, he states that his resignation wasn't over the failed referendum but instead over the election of a former employee he recommended to be essentially fired. The discussion over the superintendent's resignation has devolved into bickering about how a well-funded school district raises the values of homes in the area while others feel that has nothing to do with home values/prices. (One point of the argument missing is what, if anything, the members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux tribe contribute to the public school due to the exempt status in the form of property taxes)

I don't care either way. There are highly-valued homes in most any area. Many of the highly-priced homes are priced that way due to their size, quality of workmanship, location to schools (yes, I said it), location to jobs, location to transportation and location to recreation. It isn't only due to schools.

What always gets me, though, is the lofty amounts of funds asked for by our school districts. Rather than perform timely maintenance (it seems) they let their existing buildings deteriorate until an extreme overhaul is needed or a new building is deemed to be the only fix.

The example I keep using is the high school I graduated from. Before I came of high school age, the district tried numerous referendums with the aim of building an entirely new school whose price tag at the time was well over $50 million (I seem to remember the powers that be stating the price tag to be much higher than that).

After three or so failed attempts at forcing a $50-plus million dollar debt down the throats of taxpayers, the fourth time the referendum was changed after, miracuously, the existing 60-80 year old school was found to be sound enough to be remodeled and expanded.

Wow. With their backs against the walls, the school district found a suitable way to make the 2 city blocks long building function for an upcoming new century. For a price of less than $20 million, the school was remodeled, land was bought surorunding it to create a campus setting, 2 new gymnasiums were built and on-site parking was added. That price tag also covered improvements to other schools in the district with energy-efficient windows and improved functionality for new needs and uses.

This was one rare case where an acceptable compromise to school problems was found. Why can't others follow suit? Sure, a new building is nice and often aster than remodeling and expanding existing building and I know that growth does indeed bring a need for new buildings but the near crybaby attitude of the superintendent from the link above is sad. He doesn't want to face the pressures of a city unwilling to pony up gobs of cash in a nearly blind fashion and is unwilling to come face to face with a new schoolboard member whom he terminated just months ago. While he is seen by plenty as a great administrator, his maturity is obviously lacking.

How many others are tired of the seemingly endless spending and begging by schools? While I am forced to do without items I previously had, I have nobody to ask for a large monetary sum. My car needs repairs but should I go buy a new one because it's easier? Sorry, I can't ask my neighbors to pay for a luxury item for myself, why should taxpayers be expected to hand over cash because a school doesn't know how to live within a budget?


kev said...

I'm with you. Of course, I'm to the extreme where I don't think my taxes should be funding public schools in my area.

I never attended a single day of public school - I went to private school. But through taxes, my parents paid for a public school education I never used. And, just like in your area, our tax money didn't seem to go to upkeep. The schools look more and more rundown on the outside with each passing year.

Like my parents, I do not plan on sending my children to public school. Now, I might not be thrilled with the idea, but I'll pay my taxes and support the public school system like a good citizen.

I just wish the money would be spent on something other than athletics...

buffalodickdy said...

When I graduated from a city school in the 70s, there were approx. 450 in my class. Graduation rate was over 90%. We had no pool, tech center, or athletic building. Today, that school has a free standing tech center, athletic facility with pool. Even with todays' lowered expectations, this school graduation class size is closer to 250 with a graduation percentage of about 75%. Spending money on improved education is great, spending more tax money on lower results really angers me...

Countess B said...

I must live in a depressed area, because around here, when a levy doesn't pass, then schools shut down. Right now we have several schools that are borderline, and one that is scheduled to close for next school year. Most schools around here have pay to play sports, and little to 0 other extra curricular activities. I can only imagine what the state of the school inside is.

Such is the case in rural life...