Editorial: One more time, vote yes on school bond

May 7, 2008

By Administrator

New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra is famous for twisting the English language. He once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

While the baseball great receives chuckles for his fractured syntax, it’s no laughing matter that the Renton School District is bringing its school construction bond measure back to the voters two months after it was narrowly defeated.

First of all, a hearty thank you to the voters who approved the four-year, $20 million-a-year maintenance and operations levy and the $33 million technology levy.

The M&O money pays for such things as the nonstate-funded sixth period that is so important in preparing college-bound high-school students; athletics and other extracurricular activities; some transportation; bilingual support and additional teacher training. The technology levy will pay for classroom computers, staff training and network system upgrades. It will allow the continuation of the district’s long-term plan to integrate technology into every classroom.

But the March 11 election was the educational equivalent of a three-legged stool – the third leg being the $150 million bond request to pay for a new 10-classroom wing to Hazen High School and improvements to the school’s kitchen, gymnasium and athletic fields, as well as other district construction projects.

Enrollment has outpaced the available space at Hazen. Five years ago, enrollment was less than 1,100 pupils, but is now 1,360 students.

The bond also includes an $8 million overhaul for Renton Memorial Stadium, where high school teams compete.

The Renton School Board voted unanimously at its March 26 meeting to rerun the $150 million school construction bond measure, which lost by a mere 78 votes. Waiting another year for a repeat vote could see construction costs climb by as much as 10 percent. Property taxes will remain about $3.44 for every $1,000 of assessed value, although homeowners whose property value has increased will pay more.

A construction bond election is not a referendum on whether we like the superintendent, the school board or our child’s second-grade teacher. This is simply a test of our civic commitment to the concept of free, universal, public education for all of the children in our community. Overcrowded, run-down facilities are not acceptable. A yes vote is imperative.

Passing the bond won’t solve all the problems of schools. But it will make some solutions possible.

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