Wichita School Bond Issue: What We Don’t Know


In a recent article I wondered Who Runs the Wichita School Bond Issue Campaign? Reporting in today’s Wichita Eagle (Technical ed at center of bond changes) makes me even more concerned about this.

At Monday’s school board meeting, representatives of Citizens Alliance for Responsible Education (CARE) revealed their recommendations for the revision of a proposed bond issue. The upshot of their recommendation is to eliminate some spending for athletic facilities, replacing it with spending on technical education programs, including an aviation technology-themed magnet high school, perhaps housed in an existing facility.

This might be a good idea. It might even help the bond issue be better accepted by some voters. But what’s troubling is the interplay of the four parties involved in this apparently pre-staged drama.

According to Eagle reporting, CARE co-leader Randy Thon indicated it was business leaders who requested “technical education upgrades.” But a few paragraphs later in the same story we read “Thon said he didn’t have names of business leaders who requested technical education be a higher priority, but CARE is compiling a list of leaders to have formal conversations with as the bond issue proposal moves forward.”

So we’re asked to believe it was business leaders who requested a change in the bond plan, but the person who, presumably, solicited or received these recommendations doesn’t know the names of those who made them. I find this unbelievable.

I think the only conclusion we can draw is that CARE is merely an agent for someone else, whether it be the board of USD 259, the administration of USD 259, or Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture, the district’s architect.

Kansas law places restrictions on the board and administration of USD 259 regarding their involvement in bond issue elections. It appears that this restriction may be unwise. The development of the bond issue plan and its associated campaign is placed in the hands of either a citizen group with severe believability problems or an architectural firm with a huge financial incentive for passing the largest bond issue possible. We really don’t know.

As documented in articles appearing on this website, the Wichita public school district has problems with openness and transparency. This confusion about the bond issue and its management is another example of this problem.


8 responses to “Wichita School Bond Issue: What We Don’t Know”

  1. Ryan Willmore

    “As documented in articles appearing on this website, the Wichita public school district has problems with openness and transparency.”

    Having seen both the articles mentioned in the statement, and having been to several school board meetings, I honestly have to side with USD 259. I have seen the district’s web site, which has agendas and minutes of every meeting posted on the world wide web. How much more transparency can we ask for. The school board provides much more transparency than any federal or state legislature I’ve ever seen. The entire year’s budget is published in “The Wichita Eagle” before its adoption every year. Not to mention that every single meeting where business is conducted is broadcast on live television and rebrodcast several times during the week. Clearly the accusation in the article is only an attempt to foster an “atmosphere of alarm” in those readers not familiar with the actual practices of the accused. A powerful motovational tool indeed. Were this news as opposed to biased editorial, it would at least include some basic truth though. As it stands however, it does not claim to be news, so hopefully readers will not mistake it for such.

  2. Bob Weeks

    I would ask Mr. Willmore that if he asked the district for its definition of a “violent act” in the statistics it sends to the state board of education, and it took six weeks and several follow-ups to get an answer, would that be considered open and transparent?

    Or if one attempts to take a photograph of the school administration building while standing on a public sidewalk, and a security guard told you to stop, how would that be classified? Open or closed?

    This is just one important and one trivial example of the difficulties citizens have dealing with this school district.

  3. Ryan Willmore

    Well, if you would like, I will take several pictures of the school administration building with my cameraphone. One while standing on the sidewalk, one while right in front of the door, one from the lobby, and for the last, one of the front desk and recptionist. I could e-mail those to you if you would like. It might take a while, i’m kind of swamped at work. But I can wedge this into my schedule, it would only take a few minutes. After all, I have walked right into a school several times and the most I got from security was a polite “Can I help you?”

  4. Bob Weeks

    Like I said, the photography issue is trivial. Do you have any thoughts on the important example?

  5. Ryan Willmore

    Sure do, sorry it took so long to get back to you, but was out of town over the weekend. As far as the definition of “violent act” as far as its use in a few board policies, I do have to admit that it’s kind of vague. However you’d have a much harder time getting an answer out of a judge about the meaning of the words “reasonable” or “unreasonable.” In the realm of student behavior however I found board policy 1464 and policy 1462 gave fairly good descriptions of what is expected of each student in terms of behavior. The above policies are available for public view at http://wichita.usd259.net/policies/. As for a list of examples of how each has been interpreted over the years, it would be impossible to be specific. Most everywhere in this country children are protected even more so than adults, and rightly so. Disciplinary action against a minor will naturally be kept confident. After all, police departments and court proceedings will not release the names of minors who are involved in proceedings in any way.

  6. Bob Weeks

    Still, I ask this question of you: if someone asked the district for its definition of a “violent act” in the statistics it sends to the state board of education, and it took six weeks and several follow-ups to get an answer, would that be considered open and transparent?

  7. Ryan Willmore

    I suppose to any one person who had that experience it may seem that way. However I see the district website, and every board policy available to anyone worldwide, all the replays on cable tv, the entire year’s budget published in the Wichita Eagle every year, and have to conclude that for most individuals this would be considered transparent government. Especially when compared to state and federal governments. Sorry if that goes against your natural suspicion, but I tend to give them a break. After all, their earlier bond issue recently completed all of the projects it was passed to accomplish. It did not in any way fall short of expectations. In the meantime the district experienced 6 straight years of state funding cuts in a row until the state Supreme Court stepped in and forced the Legislature to fulfill their duty to fund schools. We right now have striking Hawker Beechcraft workers, because their wage increases were not high enough. And district AYP numbers under President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” act show improvement even in the face of rising costs and decreased funding. Well, now they have their funding and can get teachers and support personnel back, as well as getting their teachers better wages so they won’t transfer to the rural districts. And I’ve seen the budget, and seen where the new money is going. I give them the clear win over the State Legislature.

  8. Bob Weeks

    Mr. Willmore, would you please take a look at this page at the Kansas State Department of Education, and click on the page for USD 259:


    Then, could you explain to me and the other readers where we can see the funding cuts you speak of?

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