A no vote fails to consider student view


Noah Corbitt, Staff Reporter

The LISD bond election is traditionally the major attempt to find funding for school improvements in the district and is a huge reason why the district has been able to expand its schools and programs in recent years. This year’s bond proposal, however, was defeated by 21 votes, forcing the district to reevaluate how it will move forward financially to accommodate future needs.

It is completely warranted that there were reasons to vote no for the election, but this vote fails to answer the question of what to do if the district, as projected, keeps growing and improvements, space, and items are needed to supply new students.

The district’s projected top enrollment is 5,950 students, and so therefore more space would be needed to provide for the increase, particularly at the high school, which is projected to exceed capacity in the 2016-2017 school year. With these numbers, it becomes hard to argue that the district already has everything it needs financially, for space is needed and school districts themselves, being state-funded, typically find it hard to accomplish everything that is necessary. Therefore, the key arguments on the financial stage boil down to concerns about waste and debt.

A very common issue with the bond in the eyes of voters was the concern with spending on extravagances, with the proposed new pool being one of the most cited. Granted, in comparison with some other single expenditures, the pool does seem expensive. The district, however, justifies this argument in many ways; firstly, that the swim team cannot take in everyone interested in participating and also has a hard time finding practice space under the current system of going to other, out-of-district pools in which the team can only use a few lanes. Secondly, much of the academic improvement comes as new classrooms are constructed in the new phases of building, and so a lot of the bond money was slated for academic use. Another key argument for the district was that fine arts/athletics had to be expanded in order to provide the best education for the new students, and the district also stated repeatedly that they worked with a committee of residents to determine what was in the best interest of the district to include. Therefore, arguments against waste come largely from certain perspectives and not necessarily from a student standpoint.

Another concern was with the rising district debt and the increase in taxes. Regarding the debt, the district cited information with the basic point that debt in districts in the past has gone up during expansion (the costs of building with “inefficiencies”) and then decreased once the districts leveled out. Also, the district, through making bond payments, expected to retire $30 million from the debt. Regarding taxes, the highest shown pre-exemption home value of $600,000 would have resulted in a monthly tax increase of $12.19 for that household, so the tax increases would have been relatively light.

Now for the analysis of the student impact.  For without the classroom space, it is the students who will be affected if the district grows by projection (the demographer, within the last ten years, has been accurate to 1 percent).  Students will be forced into ever-larger classes resulting in even less personalized instruction that applies to the needs of the student. There was no official survey taken of the student body for this matter either, meaning that the vote was taken largely without the perspective of one of the parties most directly impacted: the students.

With this “no” vote”, the question becomes that of what can be done to address the needs of the district in the future, so when a revised proposal is presented at the next bond election date, the district voters must keep in mind the needs of students.