2.17.2016

When School Bonds Fail, Adulthood Begins

If it's wrong to love the smell of failed school bonds in the morning, then I don't want to be right.

I would like to give an exuberant Thank You! to the 42.67% of those who voted no to yet another Sequim School bond, only 3 months after the last one failed; making this the fourth school bond in a row to fail. Yay!

I also want to thank the group of dedicated folks behind the Truth in Taxation 323 website who made a great campaign with huge signs around town displaying the biggest truth of all: $54 million bond = $84 million (at least) billed to the taxpayers after interest, not to mention inflation.

Truth in Taxation also did a beautiful job of laying out the cold facts of the case on their website. I was fascinated to learn, from this PDF showing the last three school bond votes, that it appears the pro-bond people were hoping Round 4 would be the big payoff.

Starting in April of 2014, the bond failed with a strong 55.31% (the yes votes need a supermajority of 60% to pass).

In February of 2015, the bond failed at 42.41%. Closer to the goal of under 40%, but no cigar...or tax dollars, whichever the case may be. 

Then, this last November of 2015, the bond just barely failed at 40.4%. So close to passing you could almost taste the property tax increase.

Based on the numbers, it appears to me as if the voters have been worn down to the point of either not voting or changing their votes to yes. With all the pro-bond speech in the local papers and the sign-wavers (with kids) crowding around intersections, I was beginning to wonder if the no votes would win again; as luck would have it, they bounced back with 42.67%. What a game!
So more people voted no in February of 2016 than in the two elections in 2015? Methinks the plan backfired on the Sequim School District, not to mention the Sequim City Council, and everyone else who pushed for that last .5 % approval, by using taxpayer dollars in the hopes of taking even more money from property owners; as well it should have. 

Am I really supposed to take the Sequim School District superintendent seriously when, in the local paper, he makes it sound as if he couldn't see this coming? What I would like to know is how could he not see this coming? 

I would also like to know why it is now left to the taxpayers to again pay the $41,000 for the cost of placing this failing bond on another ballot, three months after the last $41,000 spent on the same issue proved unsuccessful. I'm being nice here and only looking at 2 of the 4 failed bonds; altogether the 4 bonds lost $164,000 of taxpayer dollars. So much for being nice.

Could that $82,000 (or $164,000) not have been spent on things the school needed? Knowing the way most bureaucracy goes, the answer would be no; because only certain funds can be used for certain things, and yadda, yadda, yadda. Am I right, or am I right? 

That is always the rationalization as to why money can't be used for what it is needed for, but rather that it must be used for what it is designated for by clueless bureaucrats who took the money from other people. And people think I'm crazy for wanting this inept system abolished? But I digress.

Now, since so many school bonds have been failing throughout Washington State, the losers are trying to win the only way they know how, by changing the rules: House Bill 1941 provides for a simple majority of 50% to authorize school bonds rather than the supermajority of 60% that is currently required. 

This bill was first introduced in February of 2015, and based on its activity it has been reintroduced 4 times since it was first read. It is tentatively scheduled for a public hearing (tempting!) in the House Committee on Education, on Friday, February 19th at 1:30pm, should anyone want to watch Olympia lawmaking in action. 
Getting back to the $82,000 (or $164,000) that the Sequim School District has now wasted on failed school bonds; I wonder: What if the public employees in Sequim who get paid from tax dollars and who supported the bonds being placed on the ballots at taxpayer expense (superintendent, school board members, teachers, staff, city council, etc.), had to pay back the money they elected to waste? 

What if before all bonds were placed on ballots, the public employees who wanted them had to contribute money and invest in their proposal with cold hard cash from their paychecks, rather than hot air out of their mouths? Would that maybe, possibly, make them reconsider these bonds if they had to put their money where their mouths are? 

Considering the Sequim City manager makes a salary of $120,000 through the taxpayers, and he just received a raise, maybe he could kick back some of that money to the failed cause, too; as a public employee and all who is typically on the side of public institutions.

After all, that is what people in business must do in the private sector when they want to remodel their office, isn't it? Put up their own money, or if they have to get a loan they must secure it with something of theirs that has value that can be taken if they don't pay the money back. 

Considering that classrooms are really just offices for teachers, that's what I think this school bond issue is really all about; new offices for teachers who will be there for 10, 20, 30 years or more, rather than kids who come and go every few years.

Seriously, when a school isn't even 20 years old yet and has maintenance issues, the questions to be asking are: How come maintenance funds weren't spent on maintenance, where has all the money gone, who mismanaged it, are they still mismanaging it, can anything be done about it, do claims need to be made through lawsuits to insurance or builders, where do we go from here without relying on taxpayers? 


The question not to be asking is: Why doesn't the community support the children? Gag me with a piece of chalk.
This is why I do not care for the local paper, since all it seems to do is push the school's side of the issue and how it's the community's job to support the children. They even made sure to have a picture of a crying student on the front page the day after the vote failed. Have editors no shame?

Hey, Sequim Gazette, do you take pictures of kids crying when they don't get everything they want for Christmas, too? Stop with the cheap antics in a town full of adults who care more about property taxes staying low (and saving their pensions) than about crying kids. Funny how there was no celebratory picture shown for the folks who were happy with the result. So much for fairness in reporting, I guess.

This is why I was so glad when I visited the Truth in Taxation website after seeing it on one of the signs in town, because it offered another viewpoint that I couldn't find anywhere else (especially in local papers), and a dissenting viewpoint at that. I hoped that I couldn't be the only one, and I was glad to learn that I wasn't. 

While it can sound cruel and unusual that there are people who exist who do not want to fund public schools any more than they personally believe is necessary, what gets missed in all the hurt feelings after a failed bond is that these votes are not blanketly saying the community does not care for the children. As I pointed out three months ago, schools and children are not the same thing.

Rather, it is saying the property-owning taxpayers in the community do not want to pay for the schools, which is what the bonds are for -- schools, not children. Just because children sit in the schools does not mean the money is for the children. See how the language is changed just enough, from schools to children, to make people lose focus of what the issue really is: money, taxes, and the people who pay taxes for schools, which just so happens to not be children. 
Honestly, now. If these kids want the schools, maybe they need to work for it, and not just with good grades. In the real world, which is purportedly what these kids are preparing for (right?), grades don't pay for builders, architects, contractors, laborers and supplies; money does. What's stopping the parents, the kids, the staff, and everyone else who wants to pay for school improvements, from starting their own fund to pay for what the school needs? Is there a law that precludes people from collecting funds for such a cause? 

If the children of Sequim want better schools for a better education and a better future, I propose they ask not what their community can do for them, but what they can do for their community; and that they consider starting where they are at, right in their schools, since it is the part of the community they use the most. 

Maybe fun stuff like away games, band trips and new uniforms will have to be put on hold for a short time, and students will have to do something new in order to get something new; by working to earn and raise money to pay for what they say matters most to them -- their education in their community. 

Considering that so many of the kids' parents are willing to sell out present and future Sequim property owners for the cry of their children's education, I ponder this: Are those parents willing to sign their kids' futures away to living in Sequim the rest of their lives and paying the property taxes to pay off what they, the parents, voted for? 

That is essentially what they are doing anyway, unless those parents have hopes the kids leave and never return, in which case all the more reason for the bonds to fail.

If all those kids who say they want schools are willing to sign contractual paperwork, agreeing that they will become property owners in Sequim and start businesses in Sequim as adults in order to pay off the schools they want, I might take theirs claims for the desire of new schools more seriously.

I mean, am I the only one who had parents who made their child save up their own money, that they worked to make on their own time, to buy something they really wanted that was superfluous in the parents' eyes? 
If kids want an education, they should be the first ones to invest in it. Unfortunately for kids, they don't learn until they leave school how the real world works, and that devoting time to grades and extra curricular activities does not generate money to pay bills or buy new schools. Labor, productivity, risk, and investment is what creates money; thus, that is what is needed to create new schools.

In fact, if kids were allowed to get educated outside of the indoctrination system of public schools, they may learn quicker how the real world works, and it could make them that much more successful at operating within it by being educated through it. 

With online education programs available 24/7 through credible institutions, plus a million other ways to learn via the Internet, not to mention private tutors, instructors, and mentors, opportunities to learn and get ahead are no longer limited to a set number of hours on a set number of days at the same location, and at the same pace as everyone else. That kind of education is so 20th Century.

To conclude my thoughts, the softy in me truly does feel sorry that kids didn't get what they wanted and they feel that the community doesn't care about them. However, the reflective and taxed adult in me has this to say to the kids of Sequim and beyond: 

Welcome to adulthood, where there are no trophies for participation, where you don't always get what you want, where things don't always go your way, where you will do things you never thought you would do, where things aren't always fair, and where no one cares about your feelings; now give the government your money. 
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For more dissension from the herd,
including my article Education Speculation:
10 Unorthodox Hypotheses as to Why School Bonds Fail
,
check out my new book:

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