Tomorrow the voters go to the polls. Over the last two weeks there have been numerous endorsements filling the pages of the Albuquerque Journal supporting the $218.6 million tax levy for Albuquerque Public Schools (APS). A cynic might read this as a well coordinated public relations effort to counter the Community Oversight Committee (COC) report (pdf) that hit the news (subscription) just three weeks ago.
David Grieves, co-chair of “Yes for Our Children’s Future,” a group organized to push the tax levy, said he hasn’t seen much fallout from the [COC] report. Grieves said the group has so far raised more than $40,000 to promote the tax levy and expects to have about $50,000 by Friday.
I am surprised there hasn’t been more “fallout.” I haven’t found the arguments of the supporters against the COC findings to be very convincing. For example, there was this (subscription) rebuttal from the Albuquerque chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The foundation of this rebuke being:
The COC report makes many generalized conclusions based on inaccurate information. Because of these inaccuracies, its soundness as a tool for reform must be questioned. To my knowledge, no member of the COC contacted the architects involved with the projects cited in their report.
Hmm, I wonder where the COC got their “inaccurate” information. Could it have been from APS? If so, isn’t this precisely one of the main points of the COC report?
Based on information provided to the COC, it is clear that voters were not provided accurate or complete information [emphasis added] on the $14 to $20 million District-wide technology upgrades; which was at least 10% of the entire bond issue placed before voters. Information provided to the voters clearly implied that students would directly benefit at each school, when in fact this was only an administrative computer system upgrade and provides no direct benefit to students.
Well, let’s get back to those endorsements. Probably one of the least credible endorsements came from Lars J. Sego, chairman of the oversight committee. Utilizing talking points provided by APS, Lars “said that despite the criticisms, the six-member committee endorses the APS tax levy.” I am personally struggling with this statement. I find it really difficult to believe that Zane Myers, the COC member who wrote this piece, is on record as endorsing the tax levy.
Here is the bottomline. APS had three weeks for the administration and board members to prove to the voters that they are serious about being good stewards of our public dollars. In their own words, there is a tremendous amount at stake:
If it’s voted down, APS officials say they will have no money to make repairs to aging schools, leaving many with malfunctioning heating and cooling systems. Roofing and construction orders will be delayed, officials say.
They say the district may have to look at year-round scheduling and redistricting to combat overcrowding.
“The stakes are high,” said Brad Winter, director of the district’s Capital Master Plan. “We need this (tax) levy.”
Unfortunately, the apparent lack of “fallout” that Mr. Grieves described took the pressure off of the district. Dr. Everitt sent an email to District employees on January 14th which closed with the following remarks:
Again, APS is proud of the capital improvements in our district, but we can get better. We are committed to find the most effective and efficient practices available today and seek new ones for the future. A plan to implement improvements in the capital process will be presented to the Board by June 1st or before.
June 1st is four months too late. The vote is tomorrow, February 1st, and a good faith gesture about the district’s commitment to change would have been to present specifics about the plans to implement improvements to the capital process before the voters go to the polls not after. APS leadership, including all current board members, owed this to the voters, and more importantly to our kids.