School Referenda

In order to clarify what I said to the reporter in the May 18 story entitled Mayor Urges Yes Vote for Schools, I sent the following letter to the CapTimes:
Dear Editors,
I was quoted as saying the “world wouldn’t come to a screeching halt” if the referenda did not pass. Actually, what I said was there was plenty of time for the school board to prepare new referenda questions for a November election, when we would otherwise be voting. Thus, for those of us concerned that these items are not based on solid data, a ‘no’ vote now would not bring the district to its knees.
Why the rush, then? Because the outcome might change. For instance, by next fall, we might learn that the demographics in the district and Leopold neighborhood argue against a school there, perhaps that building there would mean certain school closures in the Isthmus area. Those following school issues know that another far West side elementary school is surely going to get built in addition to whatever happens at Leopold. Something’s got to give.
And as to the operating and maintenance questions, we need a closer look at the teachers’ contract and also the “untouchable” administrative staff arrangements. Actually, we need an overall transparent budget process. If the numbers are solid, let’s see the justifications and assumptions. I am happy to support these requests when I can trust the numbers. Right now, I don’t.
Joan M. Knoebel

I’d like to clarify that this post is not meant as a criticism of the reporting. This reporter does a terrific job of covering school issues, and doing so fairly. But I felt it was important to correct the misapprehension some had after reading the story that I believe the referenda are not important or that I don’t care what happens to our schools. My point is that we have time to do this better, i.e., a “no” vote now won’t shut down our schools. The board can bring these questions back to the public in November, hopefully after a more transparent look at all the numbers.