May 02, 2012 - Happy to support bond
Thirty years ago I served two terms as a member of the Clarkston Board of Education. One significant learning from that time was that it's easy to tear down, complain, and criticize, and much harder to build up and support.
The present school bond proposal isn't perfect. But it is an attempt to make the education of our students better in a time of significant technological change, and give them and their teachers improved tools.
As older citizens, whose children are grown, and home owners, my wife and I will pay higher taxes if the proposal passes, and will be happy to do so.
Join us in supporting the proposal.
Go back to basics
I will vote No on May 8 because this district has more important issues than a wish list of updates and upgrades which include new furniture, a bus wash and bus garage doors, storage sheds, resurfaced tennis courts and floor coverings just to name a few.
Clarkston needs to get over itself and get back to basics. Our kids are sitting in overcrowded classrooms and teachers today spend more time on crowd control than instruction. The board just approved layoffs for 14 more teachers; more debt, technology and a wish list won't cure the problems this district faces.
In fact, it is estimated that the new technology will cost the district about $100,000 each year in maintenance, upgrades and updates, security and insurance costs. These costs will come out of the general fund, something I am sure the board doesn't want the residents of Clarkston to know.
What happens when the board decides to cut even more teachers to pay this bill? Once again our students will suffer. There is no statistical information to support the use of these devices to gain educational bench marks. Our teachers and students deserve small, well controlled classrooms to learn in, not new toys.
I am voting no because I care about the education my children receive and would like to see Clarkston become a trailblazing district because it gives students a substantial foundation to build upon, not distracting, shiny new devices that have little impact on learning.
It has been said, that for the first time in history this generation of students will not be smarter than the preceding generation. Our kids have enough technology in their lives, it is your job to educate them, not entertain them. Vote NO on May 8 and stop the district form racking up more debt.
Too much debt already
Providing our children with a good education is one of the most important things that a community must do. However, they must do so in a responsible manner.
This proposed $20 million bond is not a responsible proposal. The technology items like computer tablets will not last the 17 years that we will be paying for the bond. By spending money for things now, and paying for them for a longer period of time than the equipment will last, we are in effect stealing from the future. We are providing for this generation at the expense of the next generation.
We already have over $180 million in school debt. This amounts to about $10,000 for every household in the township. This is money that you have to pay the school system. It is like a second mortgage on your house. Just look at your summer tax bill and you can see what you are paying and will continue to pay.
This bond is additional debt on top of what you already owe. The school board must be fiscally responsible. This bond proposal is not.
Education involves providing the students with information and knowledge and explaining it to them in a way that they will understand and remember. This can be done with a text book, handouts, lectures or any combination of these. There is no reason for each child to need a computer notebook or tablet for this to happen.
By making the whole school wireless and providing each student with total access to the internet at all times we just provide them with the opportunity to get in trouble. They will be able to access face book and other social media web sites and spend time on them when they should be paying attention to what is going on is class.
As other school systems have found out they will also access sites that are not appropriate and measures will have to be taken to prevent this.
These technology improvements are not at all necessary to provide a quality education. They are just toys for the students and faculty.
Almost all the students in this district have computer internet access at home and they also have access in computer classes, the school and public libraries.
As far as the building maintenance items that have been listed, they were supposed to have been covered by the last bond.
I cannot in good conscience vote for this bond.
More research needed
I know of no well run business which would invest $10+ mill. with the type/amount of supporting documentation given for the technology costs in the May 8 $20 million bond proceeds.
We associate being a "technologically progressive school district" with being a "good school district."
But there have been no definitive studies supporting a blind belief that giving students computers improves academic performance. A report done by ASCD surveyed a range of studies and data on the topic and concluded the results are mixed, at best.
It summarized a Michigan study as follows: "An evaluation of Michigan's one-to-one laptop program found similarly mixed results. It examined eight matched pairs of schools and found higher achievement in four laptop schools, lower achievement in three, and no difference in the final pair."
We should beware of any school district decision to gamble more than $10 million on a bet with only 50-50 odds.
One reason given for the bond is to offer technology parity for all students.
How many students do not have access to a computer at home. Is it 40%? 5%? That data would help us understand how big a problem inaccessibility of technology is and whether this is the best method for addressing it.
Schools already have computer labs, dozens of computers are in school/public libraries, and there are laptop carts throughout the schools with computers for all students to have access in class.
Even without the expenditures in this bond, none of our students are leaving the Clarkston School District ignorant of technology or how to use it.
To deal with tablet loss/breakage, the school district will offer insurance at $50/student/year.
So students' families will be faced with the decision of whether they will pay, or can afford, extra money for insurance – resulting in added costs of up to $300,000/year or nearly $6,000,000 over the 20 year term of the bond.
I encourage a "No" vote. This bond proposal amounts to a "wish list" not a "needs list."
Further evidence that technology alone doesn't ensure sound decision-making: Clarkston schools have had computers for years, yet there are people who think it's sound fiscal policy to take out a 20-year note on iPads that will be obsolete -- or broken -- in two.
School bond helps make district slave to lenders
As a reminder the average Clarkston homeowner is in the Federal Income Tax Bracket of 25-28 percent, a 4.35 percent State Income tax rate, a Social Security rate of 7.65 percent – 15.3 percent if you are self employed – a sales tax of 6 percent on everything besides food, property taxes which have a huge range depending upon where you live and hidden taxes on necessary items such as the gasoline tax. I could go on and on.
We are already taxed too much everyone agrees on that. Now you have the $20 million bond proposal which is debt that will be incurred by the district and paid for years to come by every homeowner in the district.
Debt is never a good idea. It makes one a slave to the lender.
We must live within our means. If we cannot afford it, we do not buy it. That goes for households and it certainly goes for public entities.
It takes real leadership and management to live within ones means and not incur debt. We must hold our leaders accountable. The signs that are in favor of the bond proposal try to pull at the heart strings of the citizens with a statement of "put kids first." I feel that is truly irresponsible to incur debt for technology that will be obsolete soon after it hits the classroom. Really? An I-Pad for every student from third grade on?
I believe in education and I believe in kids. I have them in the district, but enough is enough. Get out and vote on Tuesday, May 8, and follow your common sense. Send a message that we will not be taxed at a higher rate to incur more debt.
Rob Butler CPA/ MBA