Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mixed messages, part 9

As I mentioned in the last post, the district’s current bond FAQ continues to send mixed messages about the effect of bond passage. In one place, it states:
Q: What if the bond passes and the board changes its mind on what projects need to be completed?

A: There is no clear answer to this question. As a general rule, ballot propositions should be drafted as precisely as possible; at the same time, the Iowa Courts recognize that their phrasing encompasses some measure of board discretion and leeway and that inaccuracies in drafting do not always involve material matters. The particular language of the ballot and facts and circumstances at the time will be important considerations for the board.

The bond referendum provides voter approval to the District to sell bonds for many projects in accordance with the Facilities Master Plan. Operationally, the District will sell the actual bonds as approved by the referendum to fund the projects in increments with various legal requirements. These incremental sales will list specific projects for which the funds from that sale must be used for only those projects specifically within a 24-month period.

The bond language makes it clear that the purpose of the bond is to fund the remaining projects on the Board-approved Facilities Master Plan. The 10-year Facilities Master Plan is based on projected population growth provided by professional demographers. The Board will continue to receive updated biennial population growth projections. If necessary, based on those projections, the Board can adjust the size and scope of particular projects.
Saying that the board can “adjust the size and scope” of projects is different from saying that it can cut a project entirely, which is what we were told in our work sessions. And elsewhere, the FAQ still contains these statements:
Q: What happens if the bond passes?

A: We continue to transform the learning environment delivering a 21st Century classroom for our students and our staff. Air conditioning, renovations, and capacity increases to accommodate student growth continue as planned by the FMP.

. . .

Q: Will more schools close if the bond is approved?

A: No. If the bond passes, the District can fully fund the Facilities Master Plan that allocates millions of dollars to renovate schools that are otherwise vulnerable to closure. With the exception of Hoover Elementary School, the Facilities Master Plan commits to keeping all schools open.
(Emphasis added.)

Although the specific wording in the district’s materials has changed over time, the pattern has repeated itself: Cautious legalistic disclaimers in one place, enthusiastic doubt-free assertions in another. What to make of it all?

Continued in part 10.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Former Iowa City Councilor Karen Kubby in her latest newspaper opinion doesn't get that future school boards could close other neighborhood schools in addition to Hoover.

She write "This bond referendum ensures that schools like Mann, Longfellow and Lincoln aren’t closed because of neglect." The bond referendum's way too vague to do what she says it does.

Longfellow will probably stay open. I wonder about Lincoln, Shimek, Kirkwood, Hills and TREC. Not sure about Coralville Central. We should keep them all but when your school district builds expensive tennis courts before it improves older schools, ya gotta wonder what were they thinking?