Snoqualmie Valley School Bond Opposition Springs Up – Fires Up Supporters!

Bond Supporters' Signs Placed Throughout the Valley

It seems the SVSD has found some very vocal opposition to its upcoming February 8th school bond – from a self-professed, long time bond supporter and former State House of Representative candidate, David Spring.   It seems that opposition is now fueling supporters to work even harder to pass this bond.

It is good to be informed.  To hear both sides of any argument.  That’s the way our country functions.  Isn’t that why we have freedom of  speech/press?  I did my due diligence.  I looked at Mr. Spring’s website (www.organizingforcommunityschools.org) and weighed his arguments.   He has some points – no matter how the information is presented.  He is passionate that facts have been fudged to promote a bond he believes is a bad idea.  It’s obvious he’s spent time researching his arguments.  But, in the end, the information did not change my vote.

Most people are average voters.  They want to hear both sides – without  the mud-slinging found in modern-day politics.  Political issues sometimes run off topic – with a tendency toward personal attacks.   Personally, it was difficult to read a recent email where Mr. Spring stated that a group of intelligent, well-meaning people (VVFE) “have no idea what they are talking about.”  Especially knowing the long volunteer hours spent learning the details and  pros/cons of each school bond.  What’s wrong with presenting an argument,  stating the opposing argument along with both sides’ sources and letting us make up our minds without any insults/negativity?

Once the negativity/insults surface other things come into question – especially motives.  Here’s some examples.  If Mr. Spring has supported all previous –  and some more expensive – school bonds that held no guaranty of state matching funds, then why the opposition to a much cheaper bond now?  Why weren’t the last three years spent challenging Olympia before our school capacity hit this critical stage?  Or maybe they were, but that legal battle has been futile?  Or is it the desire for two high schools (an option voted down 3 times) that is fueling the opposition?  Again, I am sure there are legitimate reasons – quite possibly different than these listed.   The point is, when negativity starts, motives (true or not) may come into question.

The fact is without another middle school the overcrowding problem is not solved – only displaced from our high school to our middle schools. And not just in one city – the effects stretch valley-wide.  From Fall City to North Bend to Snoqualmie Pass.  Yes, that middle school is expensive to build.  Building costs jumped drastically after the 2005 completion of Cascade View Elementary and during the 2006/07 construction of Twin Falls Middle School – a peak time when construction costs were rising 1% per month.  In fact, costs jumped so fast that impact fees were needed to complete Twin Falls.  One look at stock market commodity prices proves the basics are not getting cheaper.  China still wants its steel – even if growth here has slowed.  Our economy is global and global demands affect costs right down to our valley.

If  voters are willing to move forward without attempting a state lawsuit, then that’s their right.  Just as it is Mr. Spring’s right to say we should push for matching funds – even if they aren’t in the state’s budget and SVSD can’t apply for those funds until a bond passes.  Only time will tell whether a 60% majority is willing to pay for more school infrastructure.  The final two weeks of the campaign should be interesting.  Until then, let the debate continue…. but please, without the insults!

** Before publishing this piece Mr. Spring contacted me in response to my questions regarding the perception of negativity.  I thank him for that.  He apologized and stated he is trying his best to stay positive.  **

Comments

  1. Friends,
    I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the questions raised in this blog. First, I would like to explain the context in which I stated that “VVFE volunteers did not know what they were talking about.” On my website, organizingforcommunityschools.org, I provided research confirming that, at a $50 million cost to local tax payers, the new middle school would be the most expensive new middle school ever built in the history of our State. I provided a table listing the costs of all middle schools built in our State in the past 10 years.

    In response, a VVFE spokesperson claimed that I was misleading my readers and “slanting the data to support my conclusions.” He provided a list of 5 middle school projects which cost between $45 to $79 million and asked why I did not include these 5 projects in my table.

    I replied that none of the 5 projects he cited were for new middle schools. All 5 were to demolish very old schools and replace them with new ones. The demolition cost was extremely high due to the presence of toxic substances (asbestos and lead) in the old schools which required special disposal methods. It was therefore unreasonable to include these schools in a Table on new school construction – because they all cost much more than merely constructing a new school – which is what the 2011 bond was about.

    But instead of apologizing, the VVFE person accused me of “trickery” and continued to claim I was mis-leading the voters with my table. It was at this point that I wrote that the VVFE spokesperson “did not know what they were talking about.” It bothered me that even when I answered the VVFE questions, they continued to condemn my research as being false. It is ironic that while I have apologized for making a negative comment, no one has asked this VVFE person to apologize on the VVFE for all the disparaging comments – and outright misquotes – they have posted on their website. This appears to me to be a double standard. VVFE can say whatever they want – while I must watch every word I say. At the very least my comment was inappropriately lifted completely out of the context in which it was made. VVFE may consist of intelligent well meaning people. But they have no right to condemn me when it was they and not me who had their facts wrong.

    As for questioning my motives, I am simply a parent trying to protect my daughter’s future. In this respect, I am no different from the folks at VVFE. Why should my motives be questioned for defending my research – but not also question the VVFE who falsely claimed that my research was inaccurate. Instead of apologizing, they have stubbornly refused to accept that I was right – at least about the actual cost of new middle schools – and VVFE is ‘standing by their prior statement. Another double standard.

    But let’s move on and answer the questions raised in the blog:

    BLOG QUESTION: If Mr. Spring has supported all previous – and some more expensive – school bonds that held no guaranty of state matching funds, then why the opposition to a much cheaper bond now?

    MY REPLY: The 2011 bond is NOT cheaper. It is important to compare the entire long term cost of the Administration’s plan to the entire cost of previous bond proposals. As I point out on my website, the actual cost of the entire plan (of which the annexation of the middle school is just the first step) will cost our community at least $150 million – about double what it would cost to build a second high school which is not in the flood plan. One of the reasons I am opposing the bond is that the long term cost would cripple our community and eventually lead to a tax payer rebellion.

    BLOG QUESTION: Why weren’t the last three years spent challenging Olympia before our school capacity hit this critical stage? Or maybe they were, but that legal battle has been futile?

    MY REPLY: I have been working day and night on getting adequate State Matching funds for school construction for the past three years. I have spoken with nearly every member of the House and Senate and the Governor about the extreme unfairness of their failure to provide our school district with matching funds. The battle has not yet succeeded, but it has not been futile either. I have built a coalition of more than a dozen Senators and Representatives who support honoring our State Constitution. I succeeded in getting two school funding issues on the State wide ballot in 2010 (Initiative 1098 and Referendum 52). While these were voted down, I think that was because the voters were never told the consequences of voting No. Those consequences will become painfully obvious this summer as thousands of teachers lose their jobs leading to much higher class sizes next fall. I also have several thousand supporters (mainly parents) here in East King County. We will eventually win because adequate school funding is not only legally required, but also morally the right thing to do. Finally, I have repeatedly begged the school district for more than two years to sue the legislature for failing to follow our State Constitution. The administration decline. They would rather use us as a bottomless piggy bank than demand that the legislature comply with our Constitution. Hopefully, if this bond measure fails, the administration will finally realize that the only way to get the schools our children need is to demand that the State legislature provide adequate matching funds.

    BLOG QUESTION: Or is it the desire for two high schools (an option voted down 3 times) that is fueling the opposition?

    MY REPLY: First of all, a fairly priced second high school was not voted down three times. Instead, the voters rejected being charged for the most expensive high school in the history of our State. Had the proposal been an average priced 1,000 student high school (about $50 million) instead of a ridiculously over-priced high school (at $100 million), it would have passed easily. As it was, the second high school got 59% of the vote and only needed about 100 more votes to pass even though it was way over-priced. I supported the 2007 and 2008 bonds because it was the best long term solution. But I am opposing the current solution, not only because it is far more expensive than the 2008 plan, but more important because it will be very harmful to our children. It will lead to a Mega High School in the flood plan with a total school size of 2,400 students and a grade cohort of 600 students per grade. This in turn will lead to increased school violence, increased drop out rates and increased drug abuse. I provide many studies on my website confirming all of this. I like any parent, am trying to advocate what is best for our children.

    Finally, I do not believe that Snoqualmie Middle School will be annexed if the bond proposal fails. On my website, I provide detailed calculations showing that there will actually be empty classrooms at Mount Si High School in 2013 – due mainly to the loss of teachers resulting from the huge State budget cuts which will take place this summer. The administration is using the threat of annexation of the middle school to try to bully the voters into voting for a poorly thought out 9th Grade Campus.

    In conclusion, the bond proposal would be harmful to our children and extremely unfair to local tax payers. We should vote No and demand a better solution which would be less expensive, better for our kids and fairer to our tax payers.

    Feel free to email me with any questions or comments you may have.
    David Spring
    springforschools@aol.com

    • Mr. Spring,

      I re-read the paragraph of your email in which I took the quote. It is my personal belief that you presented your supporting facts throughout the paragraph and thus proved your point. After proving your case you added, “It is also clear that Jim and others at the VVFE have do idea what they are talking about.” To me, you proved your point with your facts – case closed. That last sentence was not necessary. Let us make the decision for ourselves – without the derogatory statement. If your facts support your point then can’t that be the end of it? Without your final sentence? This is the basic point I was trying to make. This is something that can hold true on both sides of the issue. Again, I appreciate your time and passion. I have asked someone from the VVFE to comment here in response.

      • You are absolutely right. I should not have added that last sentence, which is why I have apologized for saying it. At the same time, SSVE continues to post flat out inaccurate statements about my position on remodeling the high school and condemning my research as inaccurate without providing a single example of where it is inaccurate. They too should be more responsible. But instead, they are standing firm and refusing to admit errors in their posts. Both I and VVFE should be held accountable for being polite and being accurate. You are right that I should just stick to the facts. But it is the double standard I object to.

        I look forward to hearing the VVFE response to this issue.
        Regards, David Spring

  2. Cliff Brown says

    There are realities and circumstances before our valley community and educating its children, and there are preferences and best-cases we could hope for or work toward. Our school district has an overcrowded high school. It has a middle school asset much closer to the high school than other freshman campuses previously attempted. Such that advisors from districts who operated such campuses commented that almost all concerns they encountered would not be at issue with what is proposed for Mt. Si High School (MSHS) and Snoqualmie Middle School (SMS).

    Community members and staff members participated in a public process that identified the prescribed solution combining MSHS and SMS as the most effective, and most affordable at hand. Resources from this process are available on the school district website, with more in depth records available as requested at the district office.

    The district owns land paid for by developers on Snoqualmie Ridge. It also owns plans from Twin Falls Middle School that with adjustments conforms well to this property. The projected school costs are in line with both RS Means national construction cost data for middle schools, and actually responsibly less than recent bids for a more expensive middle school project in Snohomish. Using the land in-hand and the plans leveraged assets the district already owns. Community members weighed numerous alternatives, but arrived at a freshman campus and replacement middle school as the most responsible, affordable plan to provide capable middle and high school capacity for our youth.

    Another reality is this: not any one plan will be perfect for all. I encounter peers, neighbors, friends, business-people who have concerns about various facets of this plan. There are concerns many have with this plan – 9th grade transition, 9th grade logistics, 9th grade campus unknowns, the cost of the proposed school, or taxes being raised. To those who are concerned I say this: stay involved, keep abreast of the plans, participate in them, and help see them through. Not all can offer their time to do this, but most who cannot still know friends they trust, who do. Many count on my family’s involvement in the school district’s activities to measure the intentions behind them, the integrity of those involved, and such. Not every thing that is done by the school district is perfect, and not everything that they’ve done have I always agreed with. But I can say this: everything that I have seen done has been transparent, and within total realm, reach and consult of the community. And everything I have seen has leveraged available resources to best serve our kids.

    This plan is no different. The volunteers that work alongside me believe in it. We are as passionate as those who might oppose it. I do not feel like this is a plan that should elicit complete opposition – it is a compromise of realities and the many assets within our control.

    Cliff Brown
    Chairperson, Valley Voters for Education
    cbrown.vvfe@comcast.net

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