KISD’s Monstrous Bond Issue Plan Must Be Defeated
As I post this column, the Katy I.S.D. School Board has not formally voted to hold a bond election. However, the ‘acolytes’ the Board appointed to serve as a citizens’ panel to develop a bond issue proposal have issued a formal report calling for the issuance of over $450 million in new bonds.
Should the puppets of the school board mindlessly follow the whims of their administrators once again and proceed with the bond issue developed by an “over its head” citizens’ group, the only rational thing for citizens in this district to do is to deliver a crushing defeat to the plan.
Before I outline eight major reasons this ill-conceived, counter-productive capital program should be rejected, let me point a few things that explain the dilemma facing the district’s administration and school board members individually.
At long last a period of time has arrived where the stranglehold that the public education bureaucracy has held on the community and disparate groups of reformers and critics is genuinely threatened. Eventually, administrative and political arrogance of the kind imposed by fiat by a succession of superintendents and school boards faces a day of reckoning.
For Katy I.S.D.’s administration and board, that day is now approaching in a way that I once began to question would ever arrive. But, it has.
The proposed capital construction plan that Katy I.S.D. seems prepared to take to the public is so bad that the administration and school board’s train is about to fall off the tracks in ways its officials and members probably still don’t believe will actually happen.
Nonetheless, the arrogance these people have exhibited in the process they have followed now jeopardizes the legitimate needs of construction in this district. It also places in genuine play the defeat of three incumbent board members next May. With new board member Neal Howard showing immature, unsophisticated but certain signs of independence, there is a real possibility that a board majority of actual reformers will gain power next May.
(Neal: I will help you privately. No one need know we have spoken. I think you are showing signs of trying, but please don’t evolve into Tom Law.)
Here are at least two challenges that confront the district’s leadership (the administration) and its puppet-board members.
- If they choose to hold an election in November on a capital program that closely resembles the proposed plan as submitted by the citizens’ group, the bond issue will likely be defeated by a margin in the range of 60% to 40%.
- If they ‘go gutless’ for November and delay the election until next May, they will have three incumbents or ‘district favorites’ running in the same election as the bond vote. In that circumstance, they’ll not only lose the bond election; they will lose three incumbents or stand-in stooges for any incumbent who gutlessly chooses to abandon ship.
If my assessment is wrong (I have pretty good track record of predicting this stuff), then the citizens of Katy will have lost another opportunity to achieve genuine reform efforts in a district that is facing overwhelming academic challenges despite the Texas Education Agency’s dishonest and disreputable assertions about the overall quality of education in Texas public schools.
This bond election (whenever it is held) will be the most important election in the history of the citizens, taxpayers, students, parents, and teachers of this school district.
Common sense would dictate that the district bring some reformers and knowledeable critics to the table in a genuine effort to find a compromise bond issue that most would support without question. That is not likely to happen.
So let me outline the eight reasons that I will initially provide in summary format to explain the principles that will justify citizens administering a crushing defeat to what is likely to emerge. Starting tomorrow, I will write a column on each point in “George’s Blog.” A public information request for extensive data will be submitted to the district no later than Tuesday, August 17. There will be plenty of time to provide comprehensive analysis of the significant flaws of this capital program on technical and professional grounds. Such an independent analysis will likely be available on or before September 30.
Here are the eight ‘umbrella’ reasons the bond issue as currently envision must be defeated.
- The process the district used for a citizens’ panel review process was fatally flawed. All involved did not do the job the public had a right to expect.
- Katy I.S.D.’s bond issues have historically been modified blank checks. There is nothing in the process so far that gives any indication that this bond issue will be different.
- The reason that Katy I.S.D. and virtually all school districts pursue such a strategy is to maximize their flexibility during the implementation of the the bond issue and to minimize actual accountability to taxpayers.
- The program as described on the official website as of today contains inadequate financial representation of key elements of the bond proposal. The absence of data in this regard reflects an arrogance that is stupefying to behold.
- There is no comprehensive facility-by-facility needs assessment that has been provided publicly. The documentation on the district’s website that it calls the panel’s official report is wholly insufficient.
- There has been no independent, comprehensive quality control report of recent bond issue expenditures presented to the public. By quality control reports, I do not mean the kind of perfunctory reporting that details how money was spent.
- The construction of a new high school as proposed will actually sabotage any efforts to reform the delivery of core academic subjects in our high schools. The district and the compliant citizens’ group continue to follow the notion that taxpayers should spend over $100 million to construct a school for every 3,000 human butts with ages between the 9th and 12 grades. In the meantime (and despite ego of the district and some patrons aside), the calibre of secondary education in Katy I.S.D. is in decline for all except the elite students. Most students in Katy I.S.D. are not elite. The average to strong academic students are being punished by the end result of what the bureaucracy has created.
- The public’s delivery of a crushing defeat to this bond issue is the only way for reformers and knowledgeable critics to gain a seat at the table with the arrogant leadership of this district. Giving these folks another half-billion dollars under these circumstances will translate to more arrogance not less, more waste not less, and less accountability not more.
In truth, the only real way to begin restoring actual accountability to this district is to use a crushing defeat of this bond issue as the first step in electing a new board majority next May. We need to elect citizens who will take the rings out of their noses and cut the strings that superintendents and administrators having been using in this district for decades to control your elected officials.
I want to make three things clear.
- I have supported many more bond issues in my career than I have opposed. I am not anti-school or anti-spending as necessary to support education.
- This community needs to build some more schools to meet our moral and ethical obligation to our students.
- It is the unmitigated willingness of these arrogant, politically abusive administrators and school board members who are to blame if brinksmanship prevails. They are willing to ‘play chicken’ with the lives of children by trying to hold the legitimate needs for construction hostage in a despicable effort to obtain all the money they want in their utopian definition of a perfect world.
I am tired of public education bureaucrats who play this de facto blackmail game with taxpayers.
This is the intellectual battle about the future of educational accountability the community has needed for the last decade. Let’s get it on…