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Critic questions Springfield School District's proposed bond, levy increases

Voters will decide on the two issues Tuesday

March 28, 2013|by Mary Moloney, KSPR News | mmoloney@kspr.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Springfield will hold an election on Tuesday specifically for the public school system. Voters will see two issues on the ballot: a levy increase that raises property taxes and a no-tax-increae bond issue.

Two statements will be on the ballot. Classrooms for Kids is the levy. Teachers for Kids is the bond.

"If we build the classrooms, we have to have the teachers to staff them. If we hire the teachers to help the crowding issues, we have to have the classrooms to put the kids in," said Dr. Tom Prater, school board president.

The 20-cent levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $38 a year.  If it passes, the levy would be split into two phases. 10 cents this year and 10 cents next year. The school board believes the tax increase is needed to keep class sizes in the district low.

"Some of the overcrowding is obvious now," said Prater. "The future looks ominous if we don't do something about it."

Comparing the 2006 -07 school year with the current year, 42 out of the 51 schools have either the same teacher-student ratio or the class size went down.  Of the nine elementary schools that had higher class sizes, four were increases of one more student per teacher.

"If we project this enrollment growth out, within two or three more years, about 13 of our elementary schools will be over capacity," said Prater.  "And it takes us a couple of years to get these new classrooms online."

The $71.65 million bond would upgrade several schools and add Wi-Fi for all schools.  Of the improvements, the district wants to build a new elementary school, add classrooms to Fremont and Hickory Hills schools, and renovate Kickapoo and Glendale cafeterias.

David Awbrey is a former teacher with Springfield schools.  He said the focus of the levy and bond is misguided.

"The bond/levy issue being presented is really not what this district needs at this time.  It is too costly, it is unjustified, the district's claims of what they need are not verified by their own facts," said Awbrey.  "And more important, this bond and levy do absolutely nothing to improve academic quality in Springfield."

He points to classroom sizes and a district budget surplus.

"They have a surplus over the last 10 years, adjusted for inflation and enrollment of $25 million, yet they are claiming poverty," Awbrey said passionately.  "They have been more than adequately funded and yet their performance continues to deteriorate and continues to deny thousands of kids in this district a quality education."

Prater however said the items are necessary for the district to succeed.

"If both these issues don't pass, we'll see crowded classrooms, we'll have facilities that are antiquated, we'll see kids going to school with no Wi-Fi access," said Prater.  "And I think our community realizes that and they know that our kids deserve better."

Awbrey is firm in his opposition.

"Everybody loves schools. Everyone wants strong schools. Everyone is for kids. Everyone likes teachers. This has nothing to do with any of that," he said. "You will not be helping the schools by passing this."

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