First, a central principle we can all agree on: Austin public schools need our support. The proposed facilities-and-infrastructure bond package at $519.5 million is nothing to sneeze at, and yet the accumulated need is actually larger than that figure.
We support the bond package in general, and urge citizens to consider seriously all the propositions, with some distinctions. (For a full version of these endorsements, see the Aug. 20 issue.)
Propositions 2, 3, 4, and 6: YES
Four of the six propositions totaling about $291 million address long-recognized district needs, ranging from campus renovations and technology infrastructure to improved athletics facilities. Proposition 3 includes "safety and security" upgrades and low-emission buses. Proposition 6 is the refinancing of contractual debt for more flexible cash reserves.
The Chronicle urges your support of all four of these propositions.
Proposition 1: YES
Proposition 1 proposes $183.5 million for the expansion of existing campuses as well as the construction of several new schools. Some new schools are undeniably needed; others may threaten the Edwards Aquifer recharge or contributing zones. On balance, we're persuaded that AISD must serve the school-age children of all neighborhoods and will do so in Save Our Springs-compliant campuses but the bonds should not be a blank check for future expansion.
The Chronicle recommends a vote in favor of Proposition 1.
Proposition 5: NO
Proposition 5 includes funds for a new, districtwide performing arts center and a new southwest middle school. We would support the PAC, but we have not been convinced that the district needs another southwest middle school on the edge of the aquifer's recharge zone. We believe Proposition 5 violates the spirit of SOS because it unnecessarily reinforces, by institutional inertia, developmental growth patterns that endanger the community's best values, its health, and indeed its unique character as a city. Elected officials cannot continue to throw up their hands and say, "There's nothing we can do about sprawl" when they endorse decisions that make sprawl inevitable.
The Chronicle urges voters to reject Proposition 5.
Election day for the Austin ISD bonds is Saturday, Sept. 11, 7am-7pm. Most of the polling places are in Austin ISD schools, and many precincts have been combined. For full information on the election, including polling locations, go to www.austin.isd.tenet.edu/about/initiatives/bond2004/index.phtml , call 414-3050 or 414-1700, or see ads on pp. 22 & 23.