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As I have been critical of many of the anti-bond letters for their lack of accuracy and often uninformed approaches to the issue, I have to acknowledge that this is a very good letter. Mr. Carrera uses solid information and expresses a valid viewpoint. I would, however, point to ALWWWA's wise comments above for a rebuttal, and add that building new means that there is NO disruption to the educational process for students during the year of construction, which will definitely not be the case when the science building is remodeled.
This letter: Is this really the highest priority project right now?
Response: Yes. According to whom? The Facilities Task Force, which is a large group comprised of a wide variety of community members and district employees who have spent the past 20+ years examining these issues so that we'd have a clear and definitive answer to the question you posed. So...yes, it is the highest priority project right now, which is what the "no" voters said last year that they wanted the district to focus on.
This letter: Who can really afford to pay $3,000-$4,000 a year, year after year, for property taxes (like they do in College Place)? Many of us simply cannot. That’s why we oppose this bond.
Response: I inserted the parenthetical because the point you were making was that people can't afford CP taxes now, which is "why we oppose this bond." As I pointed out above, this bond is 1/9 the per capita cost of the CP bond. And the next bond to fix more of Wa-Hi and hopefully Lincoln will come when the Edison bond is retired and will still cost MUCH less than CP.
This letter: "Spread that $10 million out, and fix the existing science building, make other needed improvements at Wa-Hi, and use the rest to start a renovation project at Lincoln High School."
Response: Last year's bond estimate to "fix the existing science building" was $15 million, so there is nothing left to spread out. This is where I would seriously encourage people who care about these issues to come to some Board meetings and learn more about why the costs are what they are. Believe me, if there were any way that the district could "fix the existing science building" and adequately solve some other problems, plus Lincoln, for $10 million, it would have proposed doing that a long time ago. This bond IS the effort to have the greatest impact for the least amount of cost. It is being proposed to you by the people who have done the research into how to best do this. That's why we elected them, so that they would do that sort of work for us.
This letter: "This bond is going to fail to get 60 percent of the voters to approve it, because the school board has failed to show any compassion or consideration for the struggles of the medium- and low-income homeowners."
Response: If the bond fails for this reason, it would be a shame, because this is not remotely true. Not only did the Board take a $69 million project ($48 million bond) full of long overdue projects that would have benefited 1,500 students, and whittle that project down from $69 million to just $10 million, but the Board also defied it's own task force who wanted a larger bond. The Board took some flak for that, but they did it for people just like you, Mr. Bickle. This statement is flatly false.
This letter: "Those who fervently support spending $10 million for a new Walla Walla High School science building are those who are not property owners and pay no property taxes."
Response: This is a big, broad claim. Where is any evidence to support this? 53% voted yes for a $48 million bond last year. Were they mostly renters? Evidence of this?
This letter: "Those of us who are against this bond believe this may be only the tip of the iceberg. Once it is approved, then what? What about Lincoln High School? What about other needs at Wa-Hi and at other district schools?"
Response: This is a good question. The Board and the Facilities Task Force have been pretty clear that there are a number of needs a Wa-Hi and at Lincoln, plus a few smaller issues at other schools. The hope was to address Wa-Hi comprehensively in the 2013 bond at such extraordinarily low interest rates. If you recall, the Board initially wrote into that 2013 proposal that any excess funds would go to Lincoln with the hope addressing those needs too, but the U-B advised against it, so the Board formally removed that language. The result of that - and of the bond's failure - is that here we sit again with those issues not resolved. And yes, the district will keep coming back to solve these problems because it is their responsibility to assess and address the needs of our students. So here's the deal. If you want to live in a community with quality schools then you have to pay for them. If you are okay with the children from your community attending sub-standard schools and receiving - in this case - a sub-standard science education, then vote "no."
This letter: "College Place recently approved a huge school bond, and the property owners have already seen frightening increases to their property taxes. No wonder there is suddenly an abundance of homes for sale in College Place."
Response: Exactly. CP approved a $2.70 per $1,000 tax hike for their new high school expecting 350 students. Last year, WW was asking just $ .68 to redo almost the whole high school for 1,500 students. (i.e. 1/4 the cost per household for 4 times the number of students) What WW is asking this year is just $ .30 or 1/9 of the CP bond. This comes to $5 per month for a $200k house. By comparison, the CP bond cost $45 per month. My point? WW is not doing what CP did.
Oh, and it occurs to me that at any given time roughly 17% of all middle school and high school teachers have a planning period, so that removes them from the equation. Still, you'd get a better explanation from a district administrator.
I did miss that, PearlY, sorry. After reading your comment, I also went to the district website and found a page that says there are nearly 400 teachers and nearly 6,000 students, which comes to a 15:1 ratio. So, something is odd about that, because no teacher I know has 15 kids in a class. Special Ed programs, librarians, counselors and perhaps certificated administrators might account for some of the discrepancy. Elementary teacher/student ratios, I believe, are also lower. I'm sure someone at the district could better explain the numbers.
I just polled my two Wa-Hi kids (one who graduated last year) and in six combined years between them, neither has ever been in a class at Wa-Hi approaching 16 students. My son says his smallest class there was a drama class in the lower 20s. He added that all of his academic classes are typically pretty full at around 28-32. My daughter says the same thing of her four years there with a Senior AP Literature class of about 25 being her smallest.
I do know that when we switched my son's science class in September, the class he was leaving was full at 32, and the only class that would work in his schedule was already over-full at 34, but the teacher said he had "an extra chair" and was nice enough to take my son in.
So, I can't say empirically what the average "academic" class size is (i.e. not special ed, not P.E., not band, etc.), and I wasn't trying to make that claim, but I do know from my kids' experiences and from working on my son's schedule with the counselor last fall that many of the science classes have 32 or more students, which means the classrooms need to accommodate that many. Doceo comments here sometimes and is a physics teacher at Wa-Hi, perhaps he could further explain the science numbers.
In retrospect, I would have been more accurate to have written that the rooms will still be too small for "32 students IN a class" instead of writing "32 students PER class," which implies an average. Thanks for the question. I'm asking others to be factual, so I need to be also.
Respectfully, mspinks, when I got home Friday night and read (1) one letter that proposed that only half of the citizenry should pay for schools, (2) another letter that blamed the Wa-Hi bond on Obama, and then (3) this letter that was actually the best of the three, but was still filled with factual errors, I was admittedly exasperated.
I referred to the writers of these letters as "these people" and "this letter" so as not to call them out by name, but it was indeed my intent to criticize the practice of writing letters that are untruthful, and to lament their lack of involvement in the planning process while they apparently feel free to publicly criticize during the implementation stage what they haven't taken the time to understand. You and I may disagree, but I think that's a fair criticism.
In other words, if you use factual information, then we can focus on the facts. But if you use erroneous information or logical fallacies, then that becomes a distraction to the real argument and needs to be pointed out.
Having said that, do I wish I had instead written dereksarley's comment (see below) and had used less exasperation in my tone? Yeah, I do. What Derek did below is what I strive to do, but sometimes fall short.
That doesn't change the reality that people really should fact-check their letters with someone who knows better before they submit them. It is part of carrying on a responsible public discourse.
If you would just work harder, dogman12, and quit being such a "taker," you could be a billionaire too. :)
Because this matters. It matters for kids. So if someone is going to write a letter for public consumption persuading people to vote against something that will benefit kids, I have little patience for people who use erroneous information, and who don't even bother to show up at meetings or do their research.
The "watchdog" fear comment in this letter is a result of not understanding that the district was pretty clear during the Edison bond that it intended to spend money on "other capital projects," which is why they put that language right into the bond. Clarity is also why they put legally binding language into THIS bond that any excess funds would go back to the taxpayers.
The "fast-track" comment for a remodeled building to be completed by this fall shows an utter lack of understanding of how this works, yet this person is qualified to tell others how to vote?
Write a letter where you explain how the $5 per month is more than you can handle and that you don't qualify for the over 60 / under $35k exemption. I won't criticize that.
Write a letter where you make rational points that remodeling the science building makes more sense than building a new one. I will respectfully point out why I disagree, but I won't criticize you.
But if you throw out nonsense, then it deserves a rebuttal.
This letter: "Are the people saying “yes” property owners or just teachers who have to say yes or lose their jobs?"
Response: Are you suggesting that this bond will hire more teachers, or are you merely saying the district is coercing them into supporting it? It's one or the other, but I can't tell which. um...got any evidence to support this??? Did it occur to you that if teachers support this bond that it might be because they have dedicated their adult lives toward educating children, and they see first-hand that there is a correlation between quality facilities and quality learning?
This letter: "Tell the Obama School Board it can ask again when the Edison School bond is paid off. One bill at a time."
Response: Okay, you hate Obama 'cuz of the Kenyan, socialist, fake birth certificate, double the size of the deficit thing. I get it. (Though he cut it in half, but never mind...) And you also hate local government because Obama...wait...I thought Obama was for big federal government and conservatives were for small, local government whereby we had local control over such things as the quality of our schools. Sort of like this bond. Hmmm.... Thanks Obama!
2nd Response: "One bill at a time" for this school district with 10 schools at 10 years per bond means we get to each school for a remodel once every 100 years. It's just math. Of course, the Wa-Hi bond is a 15-year bond, which would mean just about now we should finally be getting back to fixing up that one school we built during the Civil War.
This letter: "If the bond as currently proposed is passed, who is going to be the watchdog for the voters to see that money is returned to the voters?"
Response: um, the law? It's written into the bond.
This letter: "This project could be fast-tracked to be ready for the students when they return in the fall if the district desired to have it done this way."
Response: My goodness, why do these people care enough now to write letters, but did not care enough over the past year to attend the many, many public meetings where they could have learned that this idea is not at all close to being possible? At all.
(breathe, fatherof5, breathe....)
Last login: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
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