Voters send message rejecting school obligations, and districts must listen


Texan voters have a long tradition of approving the school bond packages. And, for the most part, that has been a good thing.

But as we recently pointed out in Allen ISD, and as reporter Corbett Smith explained in more detail in a recent article, it’s not so easy these days for school boards to get their entire list. of voters’ wishes. And this is also a good thing. Public servants need to know that voters are carefully scrutinizing their spending and are ready to send a message of fiscal responsibility and budget restraint.

In the past year, multi-million dollar proposals in Dallas, Fort Worth, Allen, Azle and White Settlement have all been rejected. Smith reports that, statewide, only 47% of the 110 district-led proposals passed in the November ballot.

This decline in traditionally relaxed voters has raised questions about the political dynamics at play at the local and state levels.

We can’t know why individual voters decided the way they did, but we do see a trend in the North Texas school bond election results. Voters reject projects they see as spending in areas beyond basic education, and they often say no for good reason.

Allen voters have twice denied spending on sports facilities since 2020, but approved $ 214 million for campus infrastructure and technology upgrades. Last fall, ISD voters in Dallas funded repairs and upgrades to more than 200 campuses as well as technology spending, but rejected three proposals focused on expensive new facilities for the fine arts and athleticism. Similar scenarios unfolded in the Fort Worth and Azle school districts in November.

Meanwhile, White Settlement ISD voters have backed off a $ 115 million plan to expand schools, from classrooms to playgrounds to fine art spaces, but have approved a tax hike. to increase the salaries of counselors and teachers.

In Allen ISD, a conservative political action committee takes credit for mobilizing voters, but we cannot attribute bond failures in other North Texas communities to the same movement.

It would also be too easy to attribute this widespread rejection of school obligations by voters to an inflammatory national policy. Rockwall ISD can offer some perspective on this. In the spring, this predominantly conservative community pushed back school board candidates who criticized the masking of mandates or guidelines in schools, and in the fall, they approved bond funds for new schools and technology.

People are well aware of the increase in their property tax bills, and the days when school boards could borrow to custody may be over. We do not see voters rejecting education spending. We see them holding local governments accountable for how their money is spent.

State lawmakers gave voters a hand in 2019, when they demanded that districts separate construction of stadiums, swimming pools, theaters and other special facilities from general construction proposals. This requirement allows voters to scrutinize projects more carefully. He was the right thing to do.

The arts and athletics are important aspects of our children’s education, and we don’t think voters are asking for them to be left out. But as financial pressures increase on families, it’s understandable that they want schools to focus on meat and potatoes. It is a message that public servants must heed.


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