East Lansing Public School Bond Proposal Concerns
Lack of Fiscal Responsibility
East Lansing citizens are concerned about approving a 40-year debt for resident households when the mean value of homes in our community has decreased by almost $40,000 since 2007 (chart). Also concerning is the financial analysis of the $53M bond proposal by a group of MSU economists (link to doc) indicating the school district will realize no cost savings as a result of the plan. The bond proposal appearing on the ballot reflects a rushed decision by a slim majority of the school board in an effort to capture a bonding capacity that is based on inflated historic property values. The $53M bond proposal also limits the opportunity for other ELPS construction or technology investments until almost 2050.
Fewer Neighborhood Schools
A “yes” vote on this bond proposal will result in the closure of Red Cedar, a high performing, fully enrolled neighborhood school. The current school board resolution, supported with proposed bond funds, will cause over 277 children to lose access to a neighborhood school, more than doubling the number of children in EL that lack a walkable school. Despite having the largest increase in school age children per building over the past decade, the area including Spartan Village, the Flower Pot and Ivanhoe neighborhoods would be left without even one neighborhood school. This bond proposal damages rather than invests in walkable neighborhood schools.
Access and Equity Issues
The bond proposal spends almost 20 million dollars in two schools within .7 miles of each other, but provides no investment for children in the southern area of the district, representing 25% of the school-age population. Children residing near Red Cedar School would need to be bused K-12. Sixty-five percent of the children losing their only walkable elementary school are also non-white students. Local leaders are concerned about the fact that sixty percent of bond construction funds will be spent within one square-mile in the district. Rejecting the current bond proposal will allow for the adoption of a plan that prioritizes the future of all East Lansing children across the district.
Lack of Focus on Achievement
The current bond proposal does not seek to improve long-term educational outcomes for our children and risks a negative impact to student achievement in the short-term. Education research clearly disputes the assumption that new or larger facilities increase student achievement. The proposed new building configuration also does not ensure consistent class sizes throughout the district and will likely lead to increased split classes. East Lansing children deserve a stronger proposal, based on strategies linked to improved student achievement, that controls for class sizes and ensures minimal impact on students during construction.
Outdated Technology Plans
Most East Lansing residents support investment in technology, but also understand that technology needs change rapidly. Under the current proposal, our students risk being left with computer laboratories and equipment that will become outdated in a short period of time. As has been occurring at high performing school districts throughout the country, the trend is more toward mobile, wireless computing devices that are directly integrated into classroom learning environments. A better plan for ELPS would employ a continual approach to renewing technology resources in schools, not a one-time influx of technology spending on fixed computer labs.