Monday, May 8, 2017

Why I don’t support the bond proposal (short version)

This is just a quick post about why I don’t support the district’s $191 million bond proposal. (I’ll be posting in more detail about this topic in the weeks ahead.)

If the bond proposal were limited to the renovations to our existing school buildings and to building new capacity where there’s a demonstrated need for it, I would support it. I don’t support the proposal as it stands, though, because it includes too many projects that would expand capacity at schools where our projections do not show future enrollment to justify those expansions.

Our recent ten-year enrollment projections don’t come anywhere close to supporting the amount of capacity the plan would build, especially at the elementary level:

(Source: Pages 89, 91, and 93 here and Column O here.)

I do have some other concerns as well—for example, about some of the particular choices about where to add capacity and to some extent about our capacity assessments themselves, which have been a moving target. (More on those issues in future posts.) But my primary objection is that we’re building new capacity without any projections showing that we’ll have the kids to fill the seats.

Maybe our enrollment will exceed our projections! That’s certainly possible, especially in areas of the district where there’s a lot of potential growth. It’s even possible that we’re not planning enough capacity for some areas. (Some in the North Corridor are concerned that bond passage will lock them out of capacity that they will need sooner than expected.) It’s also possible that actual enrollment will be lower than projected in at least some areas. Enrollment projections, years out, are very uncertain. That’s a good reason not to commit to a capacity plan that extends seven years out.

It would make more sense to fund two or three years of needed projects—including the renovation and air conditioning projects, and the new capacity where there’s a clear need—and then re-assess the district’s needs at that time. I wish this year’s bond proposal had done that, but I think we’d be better off going back to the public next year with a better proposal than passing one this year that builds too many unjustified capacity expansions.


Chris said...

It’s interesting to look back at earlier versions of the facilities master plan. The version approved in April 2015 showed the following:

Projected enrollment: 16,317
Planned capacity: 16,544

The whole goal was to bring planned capacity in line with projected enrollment. The total planned capacity (including elementary and secondary) was only 227 students higher than the projected enrollment. The equivalent number now is 1,896.

Anonymous said...

Chris, you may be a bit too naive when you describe the "whole goal" of the FMP. I think that the FMP was a charade from the start and that the administration intended from the get go to overbuild. Partly, as you suggest, to have something to offer all voters, but more so to have over capacity and therefore close multiple existing schools. I suspect that the enrollment projections were over-estimated so as to create the illusion of need.

As you mention, these enrollment projections have proven to be very wrong. Yet the bond proposal proceeds full speed ahead.

If the intent was to build what was needed, we would see the building plans be adjusted downward once the enrollment projections became so unrealistic.

Anonymous said...

I just don't get how the district could spend millions of dollars of future tax money (SAVE monies) building a 5,000 sq. ft. wrestling room at West High and redoing the tennis courts at West, then ask the community for ANOTHER 191 million to do more unnecessary projects.

How does spending tax payer money on club sports, that literally affect only handfuls of students in non-academic personal pursuits, instead of using that money to put in HVAC systems and doing needed repairs, that affect all students and staff, make sense?

It would be like me putting in a swimming pool in my backyard (on credit, no less!) then starting a Go Fund Me campaign for my roof that caved in.

I can't afford the nonsensical financial logic of this administration. I am voting NO on this bond. They can try again next year, with a common sense bond request.

Anonymous said...

I listened to some of the bond supporters at the recent meeting. It's pathetic that some resort to the argument that low income parents and students will be helped with the bond. If ICCSD cares about low-income kids (or Black, Hispanic, or special ed kids) it will concentrate on improving the quality of the educational outcomes these kids receive, which are significantly lower in the ICCSD than they are state-wide.

New buildings won't change that.

Anonymous said...

It seems as if they are very much overbuilding capacity in the City high attendance area at all levels (elementary, junior high, high school). Makes me nervous they will close more than just Hoover. I can also see why people in the Coralville/North Liberty area are concerned they will not have enough capacity up there at all levels since by the time the new elementary school opens up in North Liberty, it appears as if it could open full or very close to full in August of 2019.

Seems the plan is to overbuild capacity in the East side and underbuild capacity in north side. Very strange plan. Not sure how this bond is going to be able to pass since the capacity additions do not match the enrollment growth projections very well at all. Most people are kind hearted towards children/education in this district, but this plan short changes children in one area of the district and risks neighborhood school closures in another area of the district. This can't be good for passing this bond.

amy said...

Are there development interests on the east side that are not already built into the enrollment estimates?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:48PM This plan makes perfect sense, you just have to look at it through the right lens. As others have said, just follow the money trail:

1. Build new schools on East side to support plenty of extra capacity
2. Developers get rich
3. Close small and/or old neighborhood schools
4. Bus perceived "rich and white" kids from North Liberty and Coralville to east side schools where capacity is now available to balance capacity and diversity numbers

Developers win big, Iowa City East side wins big, Murely looks like a hero

North Liberty and Coralville lose big, taxpayers lose big, ICCSD assets lost, but most importantly kids lose big

It is so obvious to anyone who can think that this plan is not benefiting ICCSD or the kids.

amy said...

Anon 9:10, I mean that doesn't sound totally nuts, except you've used the extra capacity twice. My question at this point is where Jeff M. fits into it, because I've never seen anybody jones so hard over something he's supposedly over and done with, plus if he has some interest here it'd help explain why he stuck around to head that committee after anybody else would've stepped down from the school board in disgrace.

If the idea is to overbuild capacity on the east side, then all it should take is looking at the maps of readily developable areas roundabout and seeing who in particular benefits over there. I mean there's all summer to have a look.

Anonymous said...

I am not aware of any merely preliminary platted developments in East Iowa City as of the time the last set of enrollment projections were done.

But from reading newspaper reports and driving around the district there appear to be two huge developments in Coralville (1,000 plus housing units each?) and a few large ones near Liberty High school in North Liberty that were in preliminary planning phases about a year ago when the most recent set of enrollment projections were done.

They need way more seats up there than they are getting under this plan.

Anonymous said...

I agree that McG behavior seems a little bizarre. I don't think it is any secret that he and Murleyman live across the street from each other and are good buds...