As part of a homeschool civics class comprised of students in the 7th through 10th grade levels, students were asked to write opinion editorials on topics of their own choosing which reflect current themes in governance and policy-making. Over the course of the next few weeks the class will be tracking the views of and commentary on their op-eds with the goal of generating as much meaningful community engagement as possible. A prize will be awarded to the student who is most successful at generating meaningful community engagement with their op-ed. Thanks so much for partnering with us to create this experience for the children and teaching them to be actively involved in the governance of their community!
Is Your Tax Money Improving the Education in West Bonner County Schools?
The West Bonner County School District (WBCSD) Board of Trustees election is coming up and now is an opportune time to figure out whether your tax money is actually accomplishing a quality education in our schools.
The WBCSD spends the most money per student out of North Idaho’s school districts and spends about $5,000 more per student than the state average (see attached graph). However, the district has the lowest ISAT scores and graduation rates of North Idaho’s school districts, and both metrics are below state averages. The recent levy passed in May 2021 (the same levy which did not pass in the March 2021 election) will add roughly $6.8 million to the school’s budget over the next two years. This money comes directly from the residents of West Bonner County in the form of higher property taxes.
In the August 18, 2021, WBCSD Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Anselmo stated that they have approximately $2.1 to $2.6 million available at this time for the Priest River Elementary School cafeteria renovations. The design-build proposal for the project presented by a McKinstry representative shows an estimated turnkey project budget of about $3.6 million. That is a lot of money for a renovation that will make the school facility and student experience nicer, but how will that improve the education of children attending?
A letter sent to Bonner County Democrats by Linda Larson, BCDCC Chair, encourages readers to vote for Hailey Scott, saying (after providing vague information on Scott):
“I am not exaggerating when I tell you that if the two anti-public education challengers win this election, the WBCSD will never have the votes to run a levy ever again, and WBCSD would lose 25% of their operational budget. That would gut their schools. We cannot let an entire generation of kids down.”
Based on the graph comparing WBCSD to other nearby school districts, funding has not been lacking but quality of education has. This generation has already been let down. The current proposal for use of $2.1 – $3.6 million of these new funds on the cafeteria expansion doesn’t address the students’ subpar education. So, whether there is ever another levy again is not a relevant issue. I think it’s clear that more money has not cured the problem of poor test results and lower graduation rates. It is time to give somebody else with a different approach a chance to improve our children’s education.
Susan Brown has experience running her own business, balancing quality of work and fiscal responsibility. Keith Rutledge has lived in the area for 22 years, raised three children, and is not locked into the current system of education. A fresh perspective and new ideas are needed to change the trajectory of the students’ education. Better results are not likely to be achieved by throwing more money at the same approach.
Related: School Levy and Property Taxes
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