For tonight’s meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, a resolution has been prepared that calls for a vote on a proposed bond issue to be held on November 4, 2008. I don’t know if the board will vote to approve this measure or if they will even take a vote tonight, but I suspect the resolution will pass.
Randy Scholfield’s editorial Put school bond issue to public vote is correct in its assessment of the feckless campaign in favor of the bond issue. But it’s not all the fault of the school board or the district. That’s because the school district is constrained by laws that prohibit campaigning directly for the bond issue. It can undertake educational and informational campaigns only. (Not that this has stopped board members from making their opinions known. Connie Dietz: “I will do just about anything to ensure this bond issue is passed.” Barb Fuller: “I think our goal is to get this bond issue passed.”)
This law leads to the present situation where the development of the bond issue plan and its associated campaign is placed in the hands of either a citizen group with believability problems or Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, an architectural firm with a huge financial incentive for passing the largest bond issue possible. See Wichita School Bond Issue: What We Don’t Know.
Citizens can have confidence and trust in government when it acts in an open and transparent manner. As shown in my post Wichita Public Schools: Open Records Requests Are a Burden, transparency is not a strength of the Wichita school district. This confusion over who is in charge of formulating the bond issue plan and running the campaign further harms the district’s reputation.
There is a solution, however, that would give the pro-bond group needed transparency and leadership.
There are two Wichita school board members whose terms of office end next year. These two members presently hold or recently held leadership positions. Either or both of these members — current president Lynn Rogers and immediate past president Connie Dietz — might consider resigning from the board so that they could lead the bond issue campaign.
Then, they could run for their former positions on the school board in the primary and general elections next March and April.
It would be a shame that the board would have to make do without their membership for a while. But given the difficulty in finding someone to effectively lead the bond issue campaign, something needs to happen if there is going to be a real debate about the bond issue this fall.