Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Undermining the New High School

For the last few years, it seems that the entire Fayetteville community has been discussing and debating the futue of Fayetteville High School. What should it be, and where should it be. After a considerable bit of unnecessary melodrama, the School Board's decision was unanimous to build a world-class high school for the 21st century on he current campus adjacent to the University of Arkansas.

The next challenge facing the Board and the patrons of the district is learning how much the new facility will cost and how to pass the necessary millage increase to assure that it is done right, on time and on budget. After the last millage increase was overwhelmingly rejected, it will not be an easy task. Chances seemed to be improving with the announced retirement of Bobby New, the superintendent who has done much to destrory public trust and polarize the community. The District has launched a new blog that discusses issues and accepts reader comments and responses, hopefully signaling a new openness and committment to better communication. It took another step forward last week, when the autocratic Steve Percival stepped aside as president of the School Board and a new slate of officers was elected.

All of the pieces seemed to be falling into place for the future of our children and public education, as well as a successful educational campaign and millage election for the new high school facility as early as next year. Then Downer Dan Coody knocked the props out from under the school district before they even got started by proclaiming that the local economy was so bad and people were hurting and this is no time to even consider, much less pass, a property tax increase. "I think now is the worst time since 1929 to ask for a tax increase," Coody said.

That probably kills the chances for approving a millage increase for a new world-class high school. The usual no-tax crowd who vote against school and library funding and a strong stance against it by the belligerent mayor will make it more than difficult to overcome. Even former School Board President and Coody campaign supporter Judy McDonald said, "I hope they can pull out something. It’s going to be a hard millage to win.” No kidding.

Sorry kids. Some things seem to be more important to the politicians than quality education for our children. Or cost of living raises for city employees. Or a balanced budget.

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