1) help a single child learn how to read better or faster;
2) prevent the closing of three neighborhood schools;
3) reduce class size or directly improve educational services.
The board’s plan will, however:
1) define all educational issues in terms of facilities;
2) pay the DLR architecture firm more than $2 million simply to pass the bond issue;
3) require higher property taxes with no direct benefits.
In a period of reduced resources, suburban sprawl and increased federal mandates, this is not the time to load up on expensive facility enhancements. Nor is it a time to use a flawed and artificial “baseline” idea as a means to close schools that serve real neighborhoods. Rather, resources should flow toward those neighborhoods, from both the school district and the city, to strengthen their schools.
Across the nation, many schools like East Heights, Riverside and Centennial have been revitalized, in the understanding that these educational facilities represent core elements of vibrant neighborhoods. While revitalization may well include improved facilities, the dominant themes should emphasize educational and neighborhood services.
Lawrence is growing, and student populations will rise again. We don’t need an architectural firm and a facilities vision to shape education policy; rather, we need to teach all children to read, as soon and as effectively as we can. If we don’t, great facilities, two-section schools, separate gyms and cafeterias and even wonderful libraries won’t mean a thing.
There’s no rush here, so let’s develop an educational plan that will serve Lawrence students, parents, taxpayers and neighborhoods for decades to come.
Michel and Burdett Loomis,