A Better Plan for East Lansing
The first step toward replacing this flawed effort with a stronger alternative is to vote NO on the current bond proposal, on the February 28 presidential primary election ballot.
In response to EL citizen recognition of the value of all our neighborhood schools and the building of community consensus around a school bond initiative, components of a better plan must include:
• A quality spending plan that acknowledges current economic conditions in Michigan, including declining property values.
• Integration of all existing elementary schools (Whitehills, Donley, Pinecrest, Glencairn, Marble and Red Cedar) into a district-wide strategy to attract young families to East Lansing, building a prosperous future for the community as a whole.
• Utilizing the mission statement of the ELPS, (“Nurturing Each Child, Educating All Students, Building World Citizens”), the strategic plan, and a focus on student achievement to drive decisions about infrastructure investments.
• Upgrading or rebuilding of elementary schools in a phased construction plan, based on age and particular needs, in order to minimize building transitions for students and to allow for ongoing analysis of district demographic trends.
• A focus on walkable neighborhood elementary schools, within a radius of 1.0 miles, for as many children as possible.
• Investment in integrative education technology such as mobile laptop libraries and tablet computers rather than the construction of computing laboratories, allowing for a continual approach to renewing technology resources.
A starting point for the development of a better plan already exists in a counter-proposal that was also introduced by Superintendent David Chapin on September 26, 2011. Frequently promoted by East Lansing citizens as a potentially viable alternative to the current bond proposal, that $37M plan includes renovations to all of our existing elementary schools at a substantial savings, relative to the proposed $53M borrowing plan.
Superintendent Chapin’s multi-phased $37M counter-proposal recommends rebuilding two neighborhood schools initially, with a subsequent investment in the remaining four elementary schools. Technology, mechanical, electrical, furniture and equipment upgrades (including air conditioning in all schools) were also included in this plan. The second phase of the plan would reflect ongoing collection of relevant data, status of public funding sources, and review of plans by the City of East Lansing and MSU to determine their impact on the growth of East Lansing schools. The plan would also consider property tax values, prioritize working in partnership with neighborhoods and businesses, move toward establishing K-5 elementary schools and improve technology across the district.
In fact, multiple, alternative plans have been discussed and presented by community members with experience in education, construction, technology and financing. Many of these plans demonstrate higher cost-savings, stand to protect and improve student achievement, would reduce the long-term debt burden, and embrace innovation in education. If the February 28th bond proposal fails to garner support from a majority of East Lansing voters, the EL Citizens School Forum has committed to working over the next 6-12 months with the ELPS Board of Education, City of East Lansing, Michigan State University, and other key stakeholders to develop an inclusive process that results in an alternative bond proposal and a better plan for East Lansing.