After rebuking and humiliating their critics, ignoring academic research and floating their legacy bond that “people they talked to” told them would pass, then failing to accept any blame for its failure or account for the expended human and material resources wasted in that failed effort, the Hays USD 489 school board is unashamedly going to risk another chunk of the taxpayers time and money to take another shot in the dark this November. They are again proceeding with no valid survey data from the voters.
The new bond still includes gymnasiums, the exact thing research has shown are “bond killers.” They seem to be repeating the same promotional strategies that reach only the voters already committed to the bond. They waste money sending out mailers telling uncommitted voters what they should want, rather than solicitations asking what the voters do want or what they will vote for. They seem to think that subjecting voters with no children in public schools to a guilt trip, rather trying to convince them the board is sensitive to their situation and trying to be as frugal and efficient as possible, will glean support.
The last bond was extremely large for a community of this size, but it failed mostly because the voters lacked trust in the USD 489 board. They have done nothing since to improve trust. Quite the contrary. The incompetence they demonstrated in the last bond election and failure to accept responsibility for its failure now leave voters with no faith that they could even construct a bond competently.
The newly proposed $78.5 million bond is large for a district of this size, but would be doable under a trustworthy board. But it is the lack of trust in the school board and resentment toward an unrepentant group who chooses to again risk taxpayer’s dollars and direly needed resources that could be easily acquired with a smaller bond that ultimately will cause it to fail.
The board needs to embrace transparency, humility, science and logic. Therefore, to pass a school bond, the board should: 1) present a summary of the resources expended already on last year’s failed bond effort; 2) apologize to the voters for the mistakes they made which caused the bond to fail; 3) conduct valid research into voter preferences and intended levels of financial support; and 4) construct a bond based on voter feedback.
With FHSU’s help, this could all be done in the fall of 2017, and a successful school bond passed in spring of 2018. Instead, the board, whether from denial or hubris, will deliver to us this fall only a troubling sense of déjà vu. To be sure, they will shrug that failure off as apathetically as their last. After all, they’ll conclude, it wasn’t our fault, and we can always take another shot in the dark next year. Meanwhile, construction costs go up, and the kids and teachers go another year without the resources they need the most.