More groups come out for, against TISD bond

(Tyler Morning Telegraph) - Two more local organizations offered opposition and support for the Tyler ISD bond proposal.

The Smith County Libertarian Party announced Tuesday its opposition to the district's $160.5 million proposal. On Wednesday, The Greater Tyler Association of Realtors endorsed the proposal.

If approved by voters, the bonds would fund the construction of three middle schools: Boulter, Moore and one in southwest Tyler, a career and technical education center, and the completion of renovations/additions at Rice and Dixie elementary schools.

"We are really concerned that there seems to be a fascination with building more buildings rather than improving the quality of education," Frank Eric Rathbone, Smith County Libertarian Party chairman, said by phone.

During the past decade, TISD has invested more than $220 million in bond-related facility upgrades, yet the district has an academically acceptable rating under the state's previous accountability system, according to the party's news release.

"This illustrates that new facilities do not make better students," according to the news release.

The organization also wanted to see a bond proposal address the space and security needs at the high schools.

Although the bond proposal does not include a project related to high school security, the district is making changes at high schools and other campuses to address campus safety.

Ken Vaughn, the district's director of student services, spoke about these changes during an April board meeting.

Regarding high school overcrowding, the fact that the career and technical education center is expected to pull about 400 students away from the main campuses at any given time daily, is not enough, according to the party's news release.

Finally, the organization suggested a shift in focus with the educational conversation. Leaders want to see the state take a closer look at voucher programs, which would allow parents to use state funds to send their children to private schools.

"Nothing brings about change and improvement, in any sector, like the threat of competition," the news release reads. "If parents are given a choice as to where their children attend school, and attendance in TISD schools drop, the schools will be forced to focus their dollars where they will affect real change and improvement."

On the opposite side, the Greater Tyler Association of Realtors supports the proposal because it will provide major improvements without raising the district's property tax rate, according to a news release.

The career and technical education center would provide high school students with the opportunity to learn "workforce and college-readiness skills in a real-world environment," according to the news release.

The Realtors also praised the fact that the new and rebuilt campuses would have updated safety features to better protect the district's students and teachers, according to the news release.

Overcrowding also would be reduced with facilities designed to accommodate current and future enrollment, according to the news release.

"Education in our community is very important to the Greater Tyler Association of Realtors," 2013 President Lorri Loggins said, according to the news release. "Tyler students should have better educational opportunities. These students are the future leaders in this community, and we want them to grow to be professional and successful adults."


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