The Springfield R-12 School Board has placed a $189 million Bond Proposal on the April 4th Election ballot. This bond proposal will require an annual Property Tax increase of $0.24 per $100 of assessed valuation for the next 30 years. The bond money will fund Phase 1 of the Facility Master Plan that the School Board approved in December, 2016.
As a voter in the Springfield School District, you need to understand what the Facility Master Plan will do in order to decide whether to vote for or against the ‘Proposition SPS’ Bond Proposal. Phase 1 of the Facility Master Plan includes:
1. Closure of two neighborhood elementary schools (Campbell, Delaware) and transfer of Campbell students to McGregor and Delaware students to Rountree and Sunshine
2. Closure/Relocation/Conversion of three neighborhood elementary schools (Portland, Boyd, Robberson) and three middle schools (Jarrett, Pipkin, Reed) into three K-8 campuses (Pipkin-Boyd, Jarrett-Portland, Reed-Robberson) at sites yet to be determined
3. New building for Pershing K-8 school
4. Renovation of Hillcrest high school
5. New gymnasiums at two high schools (Glendale, Kickapoo) [a non-academic expenditure]
6. Renovation (in place) of seven elementary schools (Disney, Field, Holland, Jeffries, Pittman, Sunshine, Wilder)
7. Renovation of Pleasant View K-8 school
The total price tag of the Facility Master Plan is actually about $375 million (plus interest).
The second half of the plan will require another Bond Proposal in about five years.
However, once implementation of the Facility Master Plan is started, there will be few alternatives but to continue to Phase 2 with more closures (Bowerman, York) and consolidations.
There are at least six reasons that this grandiose plan is not worthy of your support:
1. Local experience and extensive academic research demonstrate that these expenditures on brick and mortar (buildings) will not improve the academic outcomes of SPS students. The district’s poor test scores (below state averages) which have occurred over the last several years do not show any correlation to the facility ratings generated by the expensive outside consultants hired by the district. A similar scheme failed miserably in Kansas City.
2. An academic plan should be driving the facility plan. However, the administration and school board have not communicated the details of the academic plan (have chosen to not be transparent about the plan), or may not even have a strategic academic plan.
3. This proposal clearly values buildings over teachers and curriculum, and reveals a distorted view of proper educational priorities. Moreover, educational research shows that low-income children perform better academically and benefit socially from small schools rather than the mega-schools created by the bond measure.
4. There will be adverse neighborhood impacts which are unavoidable and irreversible from the numerous school closures and relocations. Abandoning the center-city and north side neighborhood schools which have been neglected will now harm the very neighborhoods which they helped to build. Small neighborhood elementary schools are a fundamental element of neighborhood identity and create opportunities for parental involvement in educational programs and personal relationships with other families. Property values near vacated school properties will be damaged and, for many, the very reason for a family’s selection of their home’s location will be gone. This will work against the Zone 1 Blitz anti-poverty campaign undertaken by the City of Springfield.
5. The tax increase proposed means that a huge amount of your money is once again being entrusted to the same administrators who have failed in their responsibilities to equitably allocate year-to-year operating funds for the maintenance of the very buildings they now tell us have deteriorated to the point of requiring demolition and replacement. (Where did this money go?) The “nominal” increase in property taxes on a $100,000 home of $46/year turns into $1,400-2,000 over the life of the bonds with probable additional moderate increases in property value reassessments in 2017 and every two years thereafter. A $500,000 business will pay $384/year more and $12,000-15,000 more over the life of the bonds.
Whether you own or rent, your housing expenses will increase if the Bond Proposal is approved. These increased costs will be passed on to tenants and consumers in higher prices. A more fiscally responsible approach would emphasize repair and/or renovation.
6. The scale, scope and sweep of this proposal is astonishing and, because of its enormity in impact and resource commitment, will preclude future alternatives. This is like going to Las Vegas and placing a single bet with your entire net worth. Good luck!
Please understand that the Save R-12 Schools Committee is committed to quality education for ALL the children of Springfield R-12 District. We feel strongly that equity demands that the School Board and Administration “DO SOMETHING FOR US, NOT TO US.”
If you believe that chronic student performance below state averages is acceptable, and that doubling down on failed policies and practices such as closure, consolidation, and new facilities is the remedy, then you should certainly vote “yes”.
If you wish to, more likely than not, diminish the academic achievement of poor children and damage the neighborhoods in which they live, then you should certainly vote “yes”.
As this proposal reminds us, there is a great temptation to substitute image for substance. Constructing new buildings is easy. Holding a shovel to break ground in a photo-op is easy. These things give the impression of activity and improvement, and are easy.
Adopting and implementing a rigorous, high expectations curriculum is hard. Recruiting, developing and retaining a corps of superb principals and teachers is hard. Assigning the best personnel where they are needed most is hard. Providing truly small schools for those students who need them most is hard. Providing small class sizes at the earliest grades for those students who benefit most from them is hard. Adjusting attendance boundaries to maximize economic integration is hard. These are effective policies and practices that would make a real difference but are hard.
We don’t pretend that doing the right things is easy.
We do contend that just doing easy things is wrong.
Please Vote NO on April 4th and demand an equitable, financially responsible proposal to address the real issues in our Springfield Public Schools.
Thank you for your commitment to your children, your neighborhood, and your community.