The message that Austin school district voters sent in Saturday’s school bond election is that they are are still willing to invest in public schools, but they look closely at the details.
“The people have spoken. We need to listen,” said John Blazier, volunteer leader of the effort to pass the $892 million bond issue. “I just pray that we as a community can come together and agree on how we’re going to address the needs of our children in public education. We have to build a consensus.”
He is right about that.
Voters did support, by small margins, the propositions that contained money for repairs and renovations and for technology upgrades. And the bond propositions that voters rejected also went down by small margins.
The bonds that passed will require strong management and oversight.
Post-election analyses are usually heavy with the sight and smell of smoke – not to mention the mirror in which various factions see what they want to see.
Some blamed turnout, some blamed the media – most notably the American-Statesman – for aggressive coverage of the bonds.
Austin voters have traditionally been very supportive of school bond issues.
The American-Statesman’s pre-election coverage of the bond package noted that the process was rushed, estimates were inflated and some of the projects on the ballot had not been thoroughly vetted.
Still in all, the district asked voters for permission to borrow a big number, and no doubt those voters were skittish about the amount the district sought. Nonetheless, proponents did an effective job of salvaging half the package.
The mixed results point to the need for clear direction from the board and efficient, effective execution of that direction from the administration.
Stumbles and fumbles don’t inspire the kind of confidence needed to guide a dynamic, growing school district.