Each one of the half-dozen elected officials I've talked to has decided- mostly reluctantly- that they need to vote for the bond. (Since first writing this, three mayors have come out against it.) It seems that all we hear, everywhere we turn, is that "we have to" and there are no other good options- so I'm trying to spread the word about some options we really do have.
What do you do
when you can't afford to do
the thing you can't afford not to do? (the link is to what a South Jordan city councilman thinks we need to do- I disagree! -but he also raises a good point about how the bond may or may not actually help specific cities in the district.)
In the household of a good steward of money, you generally go without that thing until you can pay for it, find ways to make it cost less, and meanwhile look for other solutions.
The bond is not the only option, and is a LOT of money with little guarantee of best use. See some concerns from the Utah Taxpayers' Association and the school board's response on page 4 of their October 2013 newsletter.
According to the statistics listed on a SL Tribune editorial, this half-billion is to be able to house an extra 12,000 students over the next decade. So if you've heard that we have to have this money to house all the new students coming, that's not the whole story. If it was, that would be $41K per student. It's also to rebuild a couple schools, add air conditioning to all that don't have it, and "seismic and safety renovations".
A concern I have with the bond is how it is designed. KSL posted an article a week ago about it. The end of the article infers that Jordan School District would not ask for more money in the near future; their information is misleading. JSD will ask again, and soon. When I attended a meeting about the bond last spring, the board members were asking for $940 million; almost a billion dollars! It was to cover growth over the next 15-20 years. When they got back the survey results, they found support would be better if they cut the dollar amount in half, so what we have now is a half-price bond that will be paid over the same 15-20 years, but will only pay for building schools during the first 5-10 years.
In other words, they are expecting another half-billion-dollar-plus-inflation bond to come up in five to ten years from now, which would be tacked on to the already-raised rates if this one passes.
What options do we have?
Online learning offers amazing opportunities without the overhead. Middle schools and high schools could be put on a three-semester track, which would allow the buildings to be used 50% more. An uptick in homeschooling would help; Utah spends over $8000 per student per year when you count building expenses; it was $8,224 back in 2008. That means I personally am saving the district about $25,000 for this school year alone by homeschooling my three youngest children. After 13 years of this, the savings would total $300,000; even more once you add inflation. That's just one person's contribution. Splitting JSD into a few smaller districts would help; then each community or city could make decisions based on what will actually be built in their area. Research shows that a district hits maximum effectiveness at around 3,000-4,000 students (one high school and its feeder schools). South Jordan alone has over 14,000 students, which is nearly the size of the whole Cache Valley School District. High schools with between 600-900 students result in the best learning and scores. In them, our children are more likely to be treated as individuals and less likely to fall through the cracks. Smaller schools also require less busing; and sometimes none at all.
No, the bond- at least as currently proposed- is not the only solution, and I'm tired of taxation's steady erosion of what we earn. A bit here, a bit there, until 30% of my phone bill consists of nothing but extra taxes and fees, until my property taxes easily clear the $2,000 mark in my downsized house, until everything I do that involves money has a chunk (or several) taken by others in the name of helping. I'm willing to help myself and my neighbors on my OWN terms now, rather than abdicate my responsibility... and agency.
There is a need for housing new students and possibly upgrading facilities, but I believe we should not agree to either a half-billion-(or later billion-) dollar bond until the district commits to more cost-effective construction and education along with ways to maximize building use.
I'm voting NO on this bond.