By Mitch Borden
Early voting for the Nov. 5 elections is underway and in Midland, voters are weighing in on a slew of ballot items including a bond election for Midland Independent School District.
The $569 million dollar bond is more than three times the largest bond the school district has ever asked residents to approve. Some voters say the bond is a necessary investment in district infrastructure, while others say the bond needs to be reorganized.
Opposition Group Wants More Time To Reconsider Bond
Reaction to the bond election has been predictably mixed. In the pro camp, the most vocal supporters have been Midland ISD and the pro-bond group “We Choose Our Future.”
On the other side of the debate, voters who are calling for the bond to be voted down have rallied behind the anti-bond PAC, “Better Bond For Midland.”
“We have all agreed that this bond is not the bond for Midland,” Brandon Hodges said. “Unfortunately we’ve all been put in a position, because this bond was accepted and voted on by the school board, that the only way to effect change as we see fit is to vote this bond down.”
Hughes is a Midland resident who, oddly enough, was on the committee that designed the bond currently being voted on. But he’s also the person behind the anti-bond PAC.
He says school board leadership has been questionable and they shouldn’t be trusted with a bond that’s worth over $500 million, especially when the academic performance at Midland schools has been poor. In the most recent assessment published by the agency that oversees public schools in the state, the number of Midland schools failing state standards nearly doubled from the year before.
“I don’t see a point in building new facilities without first taking a hold and addressing our academic results.”
Other representatives of the anti bond group say this bond doesn’t go far enough in fixing facility problems around the district — so they’d actually like to see a reorganization of funds, a larger bond, or just a different bond altogether.
Advocates Say Bond Is Necessary Investment
On the other side of the bond debate, advocates say the school district can’t delay building out infrastructure at its campuses. The bond is a facilities bond — and its biggest expenditure would be for building two new high schools and remodeling and expanding one of the current high school Campuses. Advocates for the multimillion dollar bond say their high schools are well beyond their intended capacity and that the bond would give the district room for more students.
While bond supporters say they’re aware that the district’s academics need to be improved, they also say it’s not a good reason to vote the bond down.
“We can continue to work on bettering education for our students in this community and address our facilities issues,” board member John Trischetti said. “I understand where people are coming from, in that those things are not mutually exclusive, and we’re working on those challenges as well.”
Trischetti and other district officials say investing in new facilities along with new technology will help retain teachers. Their argument: doing this shows Midland is willing to invest — and retaining teachers has been a problem. The district also says this new construction would help reshuffle the way the district organizes grades, providing more room for middle schools and adding over 1,000 new seats for its prekindergarten program.
How Will The Election Go?
MB: Advocates of the bond are optimistic it will pass, but not overly so. District officials, like Trischetti, worry that if this bond fails, it will end up costing taxpayers more money in the long run. Right now it’s estimated that the bond’s cost will be minimal for homeowners in Midland. The school district projects it’ll cost about $5.29 a month in taxes for homeowners that have houses worth around $300,000 dollars.