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Endorsement watch: The HISD bond referendum

The Chron comes out in favor of the HISD bond referendum.

This bond issue has drawn heated criticism over the manner in which district officials presented the package. Instead of soliciting community input regarding needed school improvements, the board of trustees approved the package and Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra presented it to the public as a finished product.

Since then, Saavedra has worked hard to persuade various factions that the construction projects, which were selected after a facilities assessment by an independent firm, are necessary for safety, worthwhile and fairly distributed throughout the district. Many major stakeholders, including the Greater Houston Partnership, have endorsed the bonds. Other groups, discounting the crying need for building repair and replacement, continue to oppose them.

Having given little consideration to public opinion beforehand, the superintendent found he had some mistakes to correct: He abandoned a poorly thought-out plan for prekindergarten through eighth grade campuses in the Fifth Ward and cut the number of schools to be consolidated. To his credit, Saavedra said he would spend more time talking with the community about ways to improve individual schools’ academic programs.

All the controversy has placed approval of the bonds at risk, particularly if turnout is low. Surely, district officials now better understand the importance of fostering trust among all the district’s constituents before going to taxpayers for bonding authority. District administrators, education professionals, the business community, parents and community leaders have a duty to work together to provide students a solid educational foundation and to solve some of HISD’s academic failures, including its high dropout rate.

Many who disagree with the bond proposal are justifiably upset that their schools have been given short shrift. This bond issue, legally limited to capital improvements, is necessary to ensure that HISD children have safe, functional classrooms equipped with up-to-date technology.

Voting down this bond issue will not give any student a better education. The plan, which includes building 24 schools and renovating 134 others, is needed to produce graduates prepared for a 21st century economy.

No real surprise. I haven’t checked the early voting turnout stats yet, so I don’t have a feel for whether that may be an issue for the referendum. It was mighty quiet at the West Gray center when Tiffany and I cast our ballots on Friday, however. Have you voted yet?

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