Thursday, May 04, 2006

Vote No - to Katy Bond Proposal

It has taken me some time to digest the multitude of information available on the Katy ISD bond proposal and come to some informed, logical conclusion. My knee-jerk reaction is to vote for the thing, supposing that our school board, superintendent and bond committee know more about the needs of the district than I do. Growth must be met, schools must be built; it should be as simple as that. I don't like the idea that existing schools should be burdened with over-crowding and its adherent problems, when a simple solution is available. Vote yes, problem solved. Unfortunately, here is why I am voting no.

I have felt for some time that the Katy ISD School Board is too closed to outsiders. Oft repeated is that no incumbent has lost an election in more than a decade. That being said, I do not think that I can support either of the two candidates running for seats in this election. Both seem to have an agenda I cannot totally buy into. Last year I supported AJ Duranni, who was not elected, but I hope in the future more men and women like him vie for seats. We need trustees who have the school children, and not private motives, at heart.

My problem with the bond proposal has to do with its lack of focus on existing schools - $261.5 million for new projects and technology, with only 20% available for older schools. The district proposal makes a point of explaining why they are shifting the expenditures from operating budget to debt driven. The Robin Hood recapture plan takes money from the former, but not the latter. Think of it like your income tax; what you pay in interest you take off you taxes. Bonds are not subject to recapture, therefore, any money spent profits our district. It is a good plan, but one Katy ISD is not using to support its current schools and students.

While the bond proposal does a good job of identifing the subject of growth, it undervalues the need for capital expenditures for existing, older schools. Buildings are like homes, they are assests that need to be upkept, or they are of no value. The children in these schools deserve to be counted more than those anticipated in the future. While there is a need to plan for growth, there is a greater need to service those who already live and go to school in this district.

It should also be recognized that new home buyers shop districts as well as neighborhoods. No matter what developers say, a quick trip around the area will tell prospective buyers that this is a district that will spend money on new schools, without a thought to older ones. Prudent buyers will not be fooled into thinking it won't happen to them. In the end, more monies must be spent on existing schools before new ones are built. As much as technology and infrastructure are important, so are clean, healthy classrooms in which to learn.

Debt financing-phobes should not worry as the district is only redirecting money to pay for capital expenses. What should really be on every voters mind is the state of our students and our schools. Vote No on the bond proposal, and ask the school board to make your student his first priority.