In a letter to the Wichita Eagle, Kansas school board member Carol Rupe makes the case for supporting the Wichita school bond issue.
It’s not remarkable that a member of the public school bureaucracy would support increased spending on schools. Her letter is remarkable, however, in what it says, and what it doesn’t say.
For example, Ms. Rupe says “I think I know who will be giving money to the group supporting the bond issue.” She then lists a few parties, but leaves out a few who have a huge interest in passing the bond issue: architects like Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture and Gossen Livingston Associates, Inc. are two firms that come to mind.
She writes that it is easier to recruit businesses to a city with good schools. That is probably true. It’s quite a leap, though, to make the case that this bond issue will improve student achievement, which I think is what parents really want. There are many low- or no-cost steps the school district could make that would increase alternatives for schools, but the district does not consider these.
Ms. Rupe writes “Some [contributors] will be businesses that realize a bond issue will help boost the local economy.” This fiction that a bond issue boosts the economy is often repeated by the school district and bond issue boosters. But as explained in several posts (Wichita School Bond Issue: Is Economic Impact Real?, Wichita School Bond Issue Impact Is an Illusion, and Wichita School Bond Issue Economic Fallacy), the bond issue simply transfers economic activity from the private to the public sector. No wealth is created; in fact, wealth is lost.
“Some will be families in near-northeast Wichita who don’t have enough neighborhood schools to stop forced busing.” Well, the district stopped forced busing this school year. How did that happen if there aren’t enough schools? And if new schools are in fact needed, they can be built without the very expensive bond issue being proposed.
“Some will be retired folks who don’t wish to pay any more in taxes but who know they will pay more anyway if businesses leave.” What is the evidence or reasoning for this? I know of no firms threatening to leave Wichita because of the schools. In fact, Wichita routinely offers tax incentives to new and existing businesses that allow them to escape paying a lot of tax.
Thankfully, Ms. Rupe decided not to run for re-election this year. Having been a member of the state board of education since 2001, Ms. Rupe must have sat through countless meetings bickering over minor issues such as science standards, and oversaw a huge increase in spending on schools. At the same she didn’t speak out in favor of reforms that other states have adopted.