I am running for Hays USD 489 school board this election, and I am rethinking my position on the USD 489 school bond issue. I was against it, for it, now leaning against it again. I think the bond will do great things to improve efficiency throughout the district, but I just cannot get over the 30-year debt and other challenges our community faces.
USD 489 enrollment has decreased. It’s common knowledge now that rural communities are suffering and young people are moving away. I believe new schools would keep a few young families here, but it is affordable living and job availability/salary that will keep an increasing number of young families here and ultimately increase enrollment. I want to focus on that — increasing or at least sustaining enrollment.
Outside of the bond issue, there is still a lot going on within the school district that board members need to be able to make wise decisions about. I plan to carry the community vision to the board table and make decisions that support the highest degree of fiscal responsibility and stewardship, along with putting the kids first and foremost.
I moved from Lenexa to Hays to attend FHSU, and over the past few years, I’ve met many wonderful and civically engaged people and started a family. Like many, during my college years, I struggled to find affordable housing for my family. Post college, I still have troubles finding a high enough paying job to support my family. Now as kindergarten approaches for my oldest, I want to make sure I settle in a community where the school system is both academically and fiscally strong.
If I were to prioritize what it is I think Hays needs to focus on the most, it would be affordable land prices, jobs and then new schools. I don’t think we should pour millions of extra taxpayer dollars into the school district when getting young families, such as myself, to stay in the community is a current struggle.
An estimated $780 million in wealth is transferring from the one generation to the next in Ellis County between 2010 and 2019 ($5 billion between 2010 to 2064 according to a study done by Wichita State University). Sad part is, young people are moving out of the county, which means the money being transferred between generations is not staying here. It is being transferred out of Ellis County and to Kansas City, Denver, East Coast, West Coast or wherever it is they are moving to find better jobs and living opportunities. USD 489 enrollment is decreasing. Think about how many young adults you know who don’t live here anymore.
I grew up in a school district that put more money into the schools than Hays does. I remember transferring from an old elementary school to a new one. I remember the difference it made in our community when new schools were built; however, affordable living and jobs were not a huge issue. I support the ideas in the bond and the logic behind it because Hays is behind, but unfortunately I cannot get over the 30-year time frame to pay it off when I think there are other pressing issues the community needs to address first.
If the bond fails, I want to be part of the school board that makes sure the next bond to go to a vote is 15 years or less, in the targeted range that community members are willing to pay, and that the issues in the bond are crucial needs. Anyone can message me anytime with their thoughts at email@example.com.
Sophia Rose Young, Hays, is a candidate for Hays USD 489 Board of Education.