In a letter to the Wichita Eagle, Angela Sader of Wichita says “Don’t punish kids.” (See Letters to the Editor, October 8, 2008)
One criticism Ms. Sader makes of myself and another school bond issue opponent in her letter is “A primary complaint has been that the Wichita school district and state generally are not efficient in their use of financial resources. But should we sacrifice our children’s education in protest of perceived mismanagement of state and local resources?” She also says we are “throwing irresponsible accusations.”
I notice that she doesn’t rebut the accusation that government is not efficient. Even if it is, she says, we still need to increase its funding, because it’s for the children. I think that when the welfare of children is at stake, efficiency is very important and should be demanded.
The overcrowding that Ms. Sader describes in her letter, to the extent it is real, exists only in some parts of the district. Even then, school capacity figures supplied by the district are suspect. An elementary school is chosen as a backdrop to illustrate overcrowding. It has 576 students. What is this school’s official capacity, according to USD 259? 600.
Then, Ms. Sader makes the “Mark McCormick Starbucks-a-month” argument: “The proposed tax increase is minimal — about one cup of coffee per day for most property owners.” The problem is this argument doesn’t capture the full spectrum of effect of this tax increase. If you take the estimated annual cost of paying for this bond issue and divide that by the number of people living in USD 259, you get about $94. This is the cost of the bond issue per year, per person living in the boundaries of USD 259. For a family of four, that’s $376 per year. This is quite a bit more than the $42.55 extra for the owner of a $100,000 house, the basis for the coffee argument.
Focusing on the incremental cost of the bond issue also glosses over the tremendous spending the Wichita school district already undertakes.
Finally, Ms. Sader makes the quality of the schools argument. Don’t punish the students, she says. But I don’t see how pouring more money into a government monopoly that is accountable in only small ways will increase quality of schools. There are reforms that other school districts across the country have made — reforms that in many cases are much less expensive than our present level of spending — that this school district will not consider.