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Lawrence district produces video about bond issue
The Lawrence school district has produced a short video explaining its rationale for asking voters to approve a $92.5 million bond issue next month.
The 71-second video is posted on the district's website. And while it does not expressly advocate for passage of the bond issue, it does contain a lot of favorable language, referring to it as the "no-tax-increase bond issue" and pointing out that it "equips teachers and students with tools for 21st century teaching and learning."
The bond proposal is actually three issues in one. The bulk of the money, about $80.3 million, would go for building upgrades and expansion. Most of that would be for the 14 elementary schools, with particular emphasis on the six older buildings in central and east Lawrence. Free State and Lawrence high schools would also receive some of the facility improvement money.
Another $6.5 million would go for technology upgrades throughout the district. That includes expanding the district's wireless broadband capacity to allow greater use of online teaching and resources.
Finally, about $5.7 million would be used to expand career and technical education programs at the two high schools.
The bond question will appear on the same ballot as candidates for the school board. All four of the candidates running for three seats on the board said during a televised forum Wednesday that they fully support the bond issue.
Because the district is about to retire some old bonds, officials say they could phase in the proposed new bond issue without causing an increase in the district's property tax levy for debt payments.
Just how far a school district can, or should, go in advocating for a bond issue is kind of a murky issue. According to the state governmental ethics agency, there is no statute that prohibits a local government from advertising for or against a ballot question. The ethics statutes only speak to spending public money to advocate for or against identifiable candidates.
Still, officials at the Kansas Association of School Boards have said they generally advise their members to play it neutral. While it's perfectly acceptable to to put out material informing the public about a bond issue and what the proceeds would be used for, the public tends to frown on the use of taxpayer funds to openly campaign for passage.
The Lawrence district's video ends saying, "Remember to vote April 2nd."