Bond Referendums. You gotta love them.

December 2, 2007


November 7, 2007

My wife was disappointed and disillusioned last night about the bond referendum in Lexington School District 5.  She had worked and volunteered over the past couple of months on the Yes campaign.  We have three kids in two different schools in the district, and this seemed like no-brainer to us.  I guess I was wrong about that – it wasn’t even close. 

This state should support anything to do with education, shouldn’t it?  How can you vote against improvements to education?

I haven’t looked at how it broke down, but I can only assume that people with kids voted yes, and those that no longer have kids of school age voted no.  Maybe some retired folks who are not even from South Carolina originally and whose kids work in Manhattan voted no.  Who knows? 

Lexington 5 is a good district with good performing schools and good teachers and good facilities.  Correction.  Lexington 5 is an Excellent district.  I just checked the website, and it says it’s says that our Absolute Rating is Excellent.

Still, I’m not sure that maintaining the status quo will be a good strategy for this district.  In business, you have to adopt an attitude of, Build it and they will come; You are either growing (improving), or dying.  So many businesses over the years have failed through a lack of vision.  Just ask Ford, or Kodak. 

I did an interview with Dr. Karen Woodward, the Superintendent of Lexington One this past summer.  During that interview she indicated that she felt fortunate that the people of Lexington One had voted in a referendum to issue bonds to pay for new facilities.  She pointed out that there were areas of the state that were less fortunate, less affluent, that could never afford the luxury of financing a major bond issue.  And she questioned the whole way that education is financed in the state, and in particluar, the move to the elimination of the property tax.

Dr. Karen Woodward.
There are many problems. Poorer districts will never be able to put in place now some of the educational opportunities that we have here in Lexington One. In the past the citizens of Lexington One were willing to pay for the increased cost of an excellent education. Other districts do not have the tax base able or willing to do that. Now this change in strategy freezes those inequities in place.

The current system does not go far enough in providing the additional resources that are needed in poor districts. Additionally, school districts will be unable to reach or maintain the type of educational excellence that our children deserve.

For fast growing districts, too, that funding formula simply does not provide enough money to keep up with growth. We are worried about the impact on Lexington One. We are growing 500 students a year, the equivalent of one school. All the projections show that we are not even going to be able to maintain the budget we have with that type of growth. We will have to cut educational programs.

The taxes that we raise within the cap can only be applied against business and other non owner-occupied property. We think that is going to hurt economic development and our local business owners. We don’t want to shift the tax burden onto businesses.

Read the interview.

There’s a sentence that I like, School districts will be unable to reach or maintain the type of educational excellence that our children deserve.

I don’t know whether I am more disappointed at the No vote or that that we had to vote at all on this issue.  We need to fix the way schools are funded, and I don’t think I’m alone on this issue. If there is a school in Dillon County that is falling apart, fix it!   If you need to improve schools in Lexington 5, do it!  We don’t have referendums on where we are supposed to build roads, do we?

Oh, I forgot, we don’t build new roads either.

Good isn’t good enough.  Today’s excellent is tomorrow’s average.  We need great schools.

Alan Cooper