In a recent column (Facts hurt bond issue opponents’ arguments), the Wichita Eagle’s Mark McCormick shows that he’s as adept at overlooking facts and reason and twisting an argument as is anyone.
For example, McCormick takes some bond opponents to task because they admitted they haven’t been to schools to observe overcrowding. But if opponents don’t disagree that some schools are overcrowded, why should this matter? This is an example of McCormick using an ad hominem attack, meaning he’s attacking the messenger rather than the message and the facts.
Then, McCormick makes the case that bond issue opponents don’t care enough about Wichita’s schoolchildren to spend an “estimated $1 a week on them.” This argument, derived from the school district’s estimate that the bond issue will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $42.55 per year, is disingenuous. Bond issue supporters treat this as though it was the total cost of the bond issue, but it leaves out huge costs that someone will pay. A better realization of the cost of the bond issue is to take the annual cost to retire the bond (some $30,000,000, and rising as long-term interest rates rise) and divide it by the number of people living in USD 259. The result — about $95 — represents the true cost of the bond issue. It captures all the increased taxes that businesses and utilities will ask their customers to pay. For a family of four living in that $100,000 house, it’s $380 per year in increased tax burden.
McCormick also doesn’t want to mention the tremendous resources that USD 259 already has at its disposal. It’s likely that per-student spending this year will exceed $13,000. Spending by USD 259 amounts to $1,927 per year for each person living in the district. That much has to be raised each year in taxation — federal, state, and local — to pay for USD 259’s spending.
It’s also disingenuous — in fact, it’s a lie — for McCormick to claim that bond opponent don’t care about kids. Just because we may not subscribe to McCormick’s belief that a government monopoly is the best way to educate children, and just because we don’t go along with everything that USD 259 wants, that doesn’t mean that we don’t value education and that we don’t value Wichita’s schoolchildren and their future.
If McCormick had attended the showing of Flunked the Movie, he would have seen examples of how small reforms in the way schools do things can make big differences. These schools that are successfully teaching children that the public schools failed are not shiny and new. Their classrooms are crowded in some cases. One school doesn’t even have computers for the students.
But these schools don’t subscribe to the educationist orthodoxy that rules the Wichita school district, and apparently, the thinking of Mark McCormick and the rest of the Wichita Eagle editorial board. It is this thinking and mindset that is the greatest danger to the future of schoolchildren in Wichita.