Snoqualmie Valley, Does Voting No On a School Bond Mean You Don't Support Education?

I attended the Snoqualmie Valley School Board Candidate Forum last month.  It was a great opportunity to match faces to ballot names and gather valuable information.  Afterward I was asked by a local reporter if there was anything that surprised me about the forum.  I responded yes.  I was surprised the moderator asked the candidates how they voted on the last two school bonds; and was also surprised it was asked as a rapid fire question, with no chance for elaboration.  I wasn’t the only one surprised.  Many audience members looked as uncomfortable as the candidates.  Think about it.  It’s a pretty private question.  Even our ballots are anonymous when tallied.  So it was a bit shocking.  One attendee even commented that it was like asking the candidates what color underwear they had on.  My tv media friend said it was a fair, election-time question.

Okay, it was a fair political question.  Then why was I still surprised, still exploring the motive?  My thoughts pondering the purpose of asking such a private question without opportunity for explanation.  What did moderator really wanted to know?   Was it a political positioning question, meant to paint the candidates a certain way?   Maybe the real question should have been, “If you vote no on a school bond does that mean you don’t support education?” 

Many people vote no on school bonds.  Close to 9,000 did so on SVSD’s last two construction bonds.  Most aren’t public about what box they checked.  It’s a personal, private decision.  But, is it also because there’s an assumption that if you vote no on a school bond that you somehow don’t support education?  And if so, is that a fair assumption?  For some this is a black and white issue.  The district tells voters what they need in the form of a bond.  A no vote damages education.  Others say it was simply a no vote to construct a new building in 2013.  Good education still continues in existing schools.

So I posed my lingering question to the SVSD School Board Candidates:  If you voted no on our last two school bonds does that mean you don’t support education?  Why or why not?

Caroline Loudenback, District #2

No, it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t support education.  Unfortunately in the case of school bonds, minority wins.  The majority of the community voted yes on the bonds.  The school board challengers that voted no are at odds with the majority of district voters who they say they want to represent. If you voted yes, you might note that the current board stood with the majority.

There are consequences of the no votes that will likely affect education in the Valley beyond not getting the middle school replacement. We now have to use the general fund for critical building repairs. Those would have been funded by the bonds. The school board has to consider all communities, all students, lack of state and federal funding, the geographic realities of a 400 square mile district and other challenges during exceptionally tough economic times and much uncertainty.

Geoff Doy, District #2

No.  My record in supporting education speaks for itself. I have spent quite literally thousands of hours over the last six years volunteering in our schools, helping in classrooms and working with kids in every grade K – 7th. I have run two programs to get Dads involved in schools. I have been part of three programs to help struggling readers. I have raised money for PTA’s, personally funded technology deployment, led successful bond and levy campaigns, attended most School Board Meeting and served on four District committees. In 2009 I was honored by the PTA Council with the “Golden Acorn” award for service to children in the Valley. I have served on the Encompass Board for the last two years; I have coached kid’s soccer for the last three years. I challenge anyone to deny my support of education in our district and I am happy to have my record compared with any other candidate.

Craig Husa, District #3

I know that every candidate believes they support education in the valley. Another question to ask ourselves is, “Do you believe that the no vote campaigns hurt education in the valley?”  Yes, I do. It directly contributed to delaying facility and curriculum support necessary for student growth and achievement.

A comprehensive two-year process researching and debating the pros and cons of alternatives was completed prior to the bond proposals.  The decision was complex.  But the facts behind the process are simple. We are a growing district. There were many valid opposing views.  However, after carefully weighing all sides, a sound decision had to be, and was, made.  In my experience, once a decision is made, the best results are achieved when strong leaders and stakeholders put the success of the organization first. They accept the decision, make course corrections when necessary, and work together to accomplish its goals.

Carolyn Simpson, District #3

No.  For example, more than 50% of Fall City and North Bend area voters voted no on the last bond.  That doesn’t mean those communities don’t support education.

Our entire community strongly supports education.  Bonds are the only major funding source for school districts to build, remodel, and upgrade schools.  But voters here are savvy.  They carefully weigh the justifications and costs of bonds when voting.  The district’s decisions to place long-term bonds on the ballot must be based on necessity, positive impact on student learning, and effect on a limited operating budget.  The last school bond was marketed as necessary for high school over-crowding; but enrollment actually declined.  This bond also lacked information on the details and costs of operating a freshman campus.

We need to keep the trust of the voters so that we can pass future bonds for schools when we need them. We can’t afford to make building decisions that increase operating or administrative costs during tough economic times.  And, we can’t risk combining urgent bonds for major upgrades and repairs with large bonds for new school buildings.

The district can improve bond decision-making and results by using strong facts and reasonable assumptions that justify the need.  The voters in this Valley will then enthusiastically support bonds for schools where and when we need them.

Dan Popp, District #5

Anyone voting NO on the last bond was clearly in the Minority.  Voting NO on School Bonds– particularly as a prospective School Board Director – is directly opposite of what I believe is the spirit of “Supporting Schools”.

Passing bonds with 60% majority is brutally hard.  The last bond (Freshman Learning Center and new Middle School) was a plan developed, designed and presented to the District by the broad community (citizens, parents, students, teachers and administrators), through two years, thousands of hours, task forces, committees and focus groups.  I wholly supported the community’s plan.  So did 60% (minus 1 single voter) of the community.

I cannot recall a time – ever – when I thought that schools are over-funded.  Coming from a family of educators, as a school parent, as a professional focused on technology education and, especially, as a School Board Director, it is engrained in me to vote YES!  Period.  Even if I don’t particularly love the plan.

We have a crisis when it comes to lack of education funding.  Our government does not fund our educational needs (as our State Constitution dictates).  Local Bonds/Levies are simply how we must help pay for improving our schools and educational programs.

Peggy Johnson, District #5

I do not think voting no on the bond proposals means you do not support education in the Valley.  That would be absurd and illogical.

I have talked to many Valley residents who voted for the bond proposals and many who voted against the bond proposals.  The reasons given on both sides varied extensively.  To say that if a person voted no on the bond proposals means they do not support education in the Valley, is repressive and undemocratic. It is our constitutional right to vote. We should all be able to exercise our constitutional right to vote our own mind without fear of coercion, intimidation and alienation.

There is a heightened awareness in the Valley for this coming election.  Many citizens are engaging.  Many of our student citizens are paying attention and discussing the local politics because it directly affects them.  This is great! Community engagement is what we want from our youth, right?  We adults have an obligation to our community youth to demonstrate civility and tolerance for those with differing opinions.

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