Of Better Bonds and Unicorns Pt. 1

If only Phil Hemingway and Chris Liebig had been on the school board when the GO Bond proposal up for a vote tomorrow (Tuesday, September 12th) had been written.  If that were the case, then the energy they’ve spent writing blog posts and editorials criticizing the Bond proposal could have been spent improving it.  Even if their ideas hadn’t swayed the other board members, they could have at least presented these ideas in public meetings, perhaps even early enough that they could have gathered public support for those ideas and used that support to sway their fellow board members.

Oh, wait…They were.  And they didn’t.

Despite his longtime support for it, and despite multiple opportunities, Director Hemingway did not advocate for Bond language specifying funding for facilities to support vocational and technical education.  And, despite his claims that the lack of language specifying support for special education facilities was a deciding factor in his refusal to back the policy that his Board voted to adopt, Director Hemingway also failed to propose this.

Similarly, Director Liebig has argued that the size of the current bond is due to the district’s “brush off culture” and that the board had missed an opportunity to offer the community a series of smaller bonds. Such an argument would be more convincing to attentive voters if he’d actually proposed a smaller bond rather than just writing a blog post about it.

Fortunately, the facilities created under the bond will make it possible for the District to pursue on-campus technical and vocational education at all three high schools, in conjunction with the resources available at the Kirkwood Regional Center.  Also, fortunately, as former special education teacher and current school board candidate JP Claussen has pointed out, the extra classroom space created by the bond-funded renovations will give special education teachers increased flexibility in serving their students.  And, the excellent special education facilities at Liberty High show that the lack of  specific bond language doesn’t have to be a barrier to the creation of facilities that serve special education students.

Regarding the bond however, we have just the one proposal to say Yes or No to.  And, as Michael Tilley points out, a “No” is unlikely to yield a new and “better” quickly enough to keep from disrupting the FMP timeline and costing the district millions of dollars.  I’ll have more on the disparate and contradictory rationales that Vote No advocates cite in their rationales, and on the realistic prospects of successfully and transparently mounting a new bond in 6 months, later today.  But for now, I want to turn to something I’ve been thinking about for a while regarding Directors Liebig and Hemingway.

I attended the board meeting where the final discussion of the bond proposal took place.  During that debate, neither Hemingway nor Liebig voiced a reason for not voting for the proposed Bond formulation except that they thought it was too big and wouldn’t pass.  This is a legitimate concern.  But, if their overall worry was truly that the bond wouldn’t pass and the projects it supported would be endangered, then their decision to make passage even less secure by not signing on to a proposal that they knew the majority of the board supported makes little sense.

This is purely speculation, but it’s almost as if these two longtime Save Hoover advocates had a different reason for not wanting their fingerprints on a Bond proposal that they never intended to vote for. Perhaps they’re willing to put the fate of one aging building in the way of better learning conditions for students and better working conditions for teachers, but they just didn’t want to make that clear to voters.

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School Board Candidates and the Bond

While I’m far from done posting about the GO Bond, I want to use this space to talk a little bit about candidates in the upcoming school board election. I’m planning to do at least short entries on each of the 7 candidates that are vying for positions on the board.  Today though, I want to talk briefly about the general field of candidates and the GO Bond, and to make some recommendations.

In general, I strongly recommend that you vote for candidates who are using their platforms to urge passage of the bond. It’s certainly not the only issue in this election, or the only issue facing the District, but it is preeminent in terms of timeliness, and it’s adoption puts the new board on better footing to address other issues.  Because the bond requires a 60% approval in order to pass, the question of how candidates are using the spotlight they gain from running is important. Candidates who urge voters to pass the Bond demonstrate a clear understanding of these points.

Happily for me, (and I hope for all of you as well) the candidates who publicly and vocally support the Bond are also the candidates who are most qualified to address the District’s other issues going forward. Unhappily for me (but happily for the District, because one of these two will definitely be seated on the board) two of these candidates are running against each other.

These two candidates are Charlie Eastham and Shawn Eyestone.  I have worked beside Shawn in the District Parents Organization for years, and I have supported him since he declared his candidacy.  I have a sign for him in my yard and I respect his judgment, temperament, and knowledge of district issues a great deal.  I have seen Charlie Eastham at school board meetings, work sessions, and listening posts often over the years, and have come to greatly respect his nuanced understanding of equity.  I was overjoyed when I heard he was entering the race, but the fact that he and Shawn are competing for the same 2-year seat is unfortunate.

In the race for the 3 four year seats, JP Claussen, Janet Godwin, and Ruthina Malone have all urged passage of the bond and have made strong, clear arguments on its behalf.  Each has also demonstrated qualities that would do them well in the process of overseeing implementation of projects on the Facilities Master Plan. Godwin and Malone have both articulated detailed and holistic visions regarding the challenges facing the District and how the board can align itself best to address those challenges. Malone has paid particular attention to the relationships between the Board, administration, and families, and Godwin shows a great understanding of what it takes to make a public board work effectively. Both have professional backgrounds that prepare them well for this work.  Claussen brings great passion to the table, and the knowledge and experience gained by being a special education teacher in our District.  Since his last run for Board, he seems to have abetted his passion with a commitment to listening to and responding thoughtfully to opposing viewpoints.

Karen Woltman, who is also running for a 4-year seat, has not taken a public position on the passage of the bond, saying only that she will “abide by the will of the voters.”  I have friends who have great respect for her thoughts on issues of curriculum and instruction, but I’m dismayed by Woltman’s ambiguous stance here. Any director elected will have to abide by the will of the voters wrt the GO Bond. If someone doesn’t have or won’t offer an unambiguous position on such an important issue, then I’m not inclined to vote to put them in charge of the disposition of said issue. I do agree with her stated desire to move the board’s focus away from buildings and towards learning, but that goal would be better served by passing the bond than not doing so.

Laura Westemeyer is, at least, clear in her opposition to the Bond.  Her initial statements, suggesting that this bond needed to be put forth under a new set of directors, made it seem that she did not quite understand her own role if elected regarding the bond’s implementation.  She’s since clarified that what she wants is to be part of a board that writes a new bond, with said new bond adding an elementary school in the North, revisiting Hills Elementary, and also somehow being smaller than the current ask. Her statements regarding schools being left out of the bond don’t show much familiarity with the work already done on the Facilities Master Plan (and therefore not needing to be paid for with bonding authority).  I have other reservations about Westemeyer, including  an apparent contradiction between her vocal advocacy for the rights of disabled students in this race, and her citation for unlawfully denying a disabled tenant permission to keep a service animal.

Given what I’ve argued above, I urge you to see support for the GO Bond as a bright line between candidates in this election.

Vote Yes on September 12

Just before the deadline, I submitted a guest editorial to the Press-Citizen.  Below is an expanded version of that editorial.

On August 23rd of this year I sent my daughter off to an air-conditioned school with a full size gym, beautiful dedicated art and music rooms, and plenty of classroom space. But it wasn’t always this way.

Just a few years ago, Mark Twain Elementary lacked air conditioning, so on hot days, where it could reach 90 degrees inside the building before 10:00, teachers rotated groups of sweaty students through the cool of the library, or tried to teach over the roar of whirring fans. If school was let out early due to heat, children whose parents couldn’t get off work to pick them up had to find shelter with friends or relatives, or simply walk home to empty houses because our BASP program had to be cancelled as well.

The school used the same multi-purpose room for a gym that it did for lunch. This limited what activities our gym teacher could safely offer students, and meant that we could never have all of the parents in our school community attend an assembly. Our art teacher carried gallon jugs of water out to the trailer shared with music classes, because the trailer didn’t have a sink. The school was so crowded that classes were larger than they were supposed to be because there weren’t enough classrooms.

The Facilities Master Plan, adopted by the District in 2013 after a long process of community input and evaluation, transformed Twain made a difference and the lives of its students and teachers. Not only was the building renovated, but the opening of Alexander Elementary relieved significant overcrowding at Twain and at Grant Wood. Over the past 4 years, the FMP has delivered crucial updates to schools on all sides of the district and brought a new elementary school and a new high school into existence.

But there is more to do. Decades of deferred renovation have left many of our older schools in the same shape that Twain was in, the new high school lacks athletic facilities and is only 2/3 the capacity of the other two, and our rapidly growing district needs at least one more elementary school, quickly. There are concrete plans and a time table for these projects in the FMP, but in order to fund them we need to turn out as a community on September 12th and vote YES for the ICCSD General Obligation Bond.

The work done at Twain offers a good example of what we can expect from the projects at other schools.  The principal and teachers were consulted in the design phase, and thanks to their recommendations there is a bathroom in-between the two new kindergarten classrooms, and the art and music rooms are located far enough away from the other classrooms that the music won’t disturb other classes.  The art and music rooms have high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows on one side, letting in plenty of natural light and creating an inspiring, comfortable environment for creativity.  They also have storage for art supplies and instruments. The gym features full size basketball goals on all sides, and a climbing wall, and is large enough that we can invite the entire Twain community to an assembly.  The geothermal heating and air conditioning system is tremendously efficient and will save the district money versus conventional electrical systems over the long haul.  And, our BASP can offer families that attend Twain convenient, affordable childcare in the summer as opposed to having the building sit empty 3 months out of the year.

Of course having AC at Twain doesn’t mean an end to early outs, but if the bond is passed, all elementary schools in the ICCSD will have AC by 2019, and all secondary schools by 2020.  And, by rescheduling bus routes, the District will be able to keep elementary schools open the full day in 2019, while letting secondary schools out early.

Critics will tell you that the bond is large. That’s true. It’s big because the needs are big. But despite its size, it will only require a small increase in property taxes, approximately $4.25 per month per $100,000 of your home’s assessed value. And, even after it passes, our school taxes will still be lower than those of any large district in the state.

Critics will tell you that the language on the bond is vague, and that we shouldn’t trust the administration with this much money. But the language on the bond ties the funding to the projects outlined on the Facilities Master Plan. Every project on this plan over the past four years has been completed on time and at or under budget and according to the plan.  Changes to the plan have been made not by the administration, but by our elected school board, by vote in open meetings following discussion.

Critics will tell you that we could have a better bond in 6 months. But the lengthy process by which we arrived at this one makes it unlikely that could be done in a responsible and transparent way, even if we could all agree on what a “better” bond would look like. People urging the community to Vote No have decried the bond’s size while simultaneously urging the addition of things like a second renovation at Hills and a second North Liberty elementary school (both of which we will need at some point), and claiming that they value air conditioning and other elementary upgrades. The idea that the new board and administration could sort through these mixed messages and create a new funding plan that would appeal to 60% of voters all across the district while also rewriting the FMP around that funding mechanism is deeply impractical. The most likely consequence of the bond failing is a delay of at least a year or two, and every year we delay adds to the cost, meaning we would end up paying more to achieve less.

A smaller bond would be less expensive by definition, but it would also accomplish less.  And, it would be harder to craft a smaller bond that appealed to each side of the District. The Facilities Master Plan was originally created to end a bitter political divide over spending priorities on District facilities . Residents on the east side side of the District, where a new school had not been built since 1978, campaigned for renovations and repairs to aging schools.  Residents to the west and north stumped for a third comprehensive high school to relieve secondary overcrowding.  Both sides pointed to the need for new elementary schools to house growing populations. The dispute was haunted by decades of east-west rivalries, including an early bond vote where the then-much-more-populous Iowa City voted down a bond that would have built athletic facilities at West High.

The aim of the Facilities Master Plan was to address all of these needs, and to undercut the competition for spending across the District by giving each of the geographic rival factions a stake. Because the cost of all of the work that needed to be done was too high to pay for with money borrowed against future sales tax under the 2013 Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS), a bond was planned from the beginning, and projects were arranged on the timeline so that every corner of the district has a stake in the Bond passing. Replicating this appeal with a smaller bond constructed in just a few months is unlikely.

Critics argue that there are other pressing issues across the District that need attention, from closing achievement gaps to reforming special education. They are correct. But this only means that it is even more crucial that we pass this bond now, so that work on these projects continues apace while the board turns its full attention to these matters.

Passing the bond will make sure that all of our elementary schools are air conditioned by 2019, and all of our secondary schools by 2020. Passing the bond will put our teachers in better working conditions. Passing the bond will make sure that all of our comprehensive high schools have equivalent capacity and equitable facilities. Passing the bond means that we can get to work on so many other things that need to be addressed. Passing the bond is an investment in our future that will serve our community for decades to come. Please Vote Yes on September 12th.

Voting Against The Bond Is Not “Progressive” Part 1: Paul Street is wrong.

I’m sorry to see local writer and activist Paul Street join the small group of Iowa City progressives fronting for Republican causes in an effort to vote down the ICCSD GO Bond.  Like most in this same set, he appears to not have seriously engaged with school district issues in any serious or rigorous way up until now, and, once engaged, he seems to have done little digging into those issues.  Instead he’s settled his position into a general frame that posits that anything that could benefit a local developer in part must be a bad idea regardless of who else benefits from the bond passing, or bears the cost of it not passing.

I wish that we could simply hold an old-fashioned barn-raising to put up new schools or renovate old ones, but we can’t.  As long as we slouch along under capitalism, large scale public works projects will generate profits for developers. As such, this doesn’t make a very good sole ground for simply opposing them all, as they can also supply wage work for building and professional trades, improve working conditions for workers within them, and provide serious and longstanding benefit to the community at large and individuals within the community.  And this is particularly the case when those benefits are delivered free to all members of the community and are guaranteed to the most vulnerable among us.  This, all of this, is the case with the projects funded under the bond.

Because I’m pressed for time, I’m going to fill out the rest of this post out with comments I’ve made on social media refuting specific aspects of Mr. Street’s editorial.  I will say that Mr. Street seems to have his heart in the right place politically in many instances.  I hope that he will consider these points and look more deeply into this matter.

Regarding the overall framing, there are some serious problems as well. This 6-month timeline is something I mostly hear from people who have not been engaged in this process until very recently.

Suggesting that a new bond could go back up in 6 months assumes that the reasons for this one failing would be self-evident. But that’s not the case. Some bond opponents object on the basis of cost and want a smaller bond. Other bond opponents have complained about specific projects being left out and want to add those. Others just want the superintendent gone. Others object that their corner of the district isn’t receiving enough money or attention. Just as there is now significant disagreement about what our “highest priorities” are, there will be disagreements during the process of putting together a new bond. If the board and administration go about this rigorously and transparently, as such a process requires, it will take significant amounts of time and energy and community input.

And, as the brand-new board undertakes this process, investigates which of the contradictory demands they want the new bond to be most responsive to, then what happens to the other very important work that Mr. Street points out needs attention from the board and administration? If the bond is voted down it will be harder, not easier, to address those issues as the board and administration scramble to adjust the FMP timelines and rework the plan that the bond funds.

See other posts about the actual likely consequences of the bond being voted down from me, and from friend of the page Michael Tilley.

Regarding developers profiting: I’m more or less a socialist. The day that we can build schools and undertake other large scale public building programs without generating profit for any private entities would be a great day. But that’s not where we are now. But, there are better and worse ways to undertake projects like this under capitalism. This one has the support of developers and real estate interests, but is also has the support of the Teachers Union, the Building Trades union and, in fact, every other local labor group. Its pretty distasteful to see these advocates for working people dismissed as “elites.”

Of course what this piece elides is that there are plenty of elites quietly organized in opposition to this, as local Republicans are more than happy to let a few progressive Democrats front for them while they distribute signs and leaflets for the Vote No effort.

To take Mr. street’s points in order:

First: 1,500 extra seats sounds like a lot, until you consider that we’re talking about a district that now has 14,000 students in it right now, and which gains about 300 students per year. That’s 1,500 seats split up across 24 schools.

Second: It’s more than a little contradictory to, on the one hand, complain that the projects aren’t tied to specific dollar amounts and then, within a sentence, suggest that projects might not be completed due to cost overruns. The kind of uncertainty fearmongered here is exactly why it makes sense to allow the elected School Boards who will oversee this process some flexibility. The bond ties the funding to the plan. Every change in the FMP has been discussed in open meetings and voted on by an elected board. Everyproject in the FMP has been accomplished on time and at or under budget. Specifying dollar amounts would leave the plan much more vulnerable to cost overruns and would mean that, if a project were finished under budget, the money saved couldn’t be spent on a different project under the bond.

Third: Interesting to note that all of those “highest priority projects” are in one area of the District. Voters in Coralville and North Liberty might not agree that these are the highest priorities, especially since that list leaves a whole high school without any athletic facilities, leaves West High with incomplete HVAC, and more. Note also that Mr. Street doesn’t say why this is better, it just is. We live in a large district, with many different priorities and needs spread across a huge area. One of the hallmarks of the FMP is its ability to balance these competing priorities. If not for that, we would still be fighting over whether we should have a new high school or renovate our older schools.

Fourth: There is no closing of “existing core Iowa City neighborhood schools” happening. One such school in Iowa City, one that sits within a mile of 3 other elementary schools and sits on the grounds of a high school, is being closed. The other urban schools are being renovated and invested in. One of the new schools being built is serving a neighborhood that has been bussed in to another school for years. The other is in downtown North Liberty. This is not a case of subsidizing sprawl. I’d like to see more capacity and renovation in Hills, which Mr. Street refers to as “rural Southwest Iowa City”) as well, but its hard to reconcile that with Mr. Street’s urge above for the bond to become smaller. Would this be one of those “highest priority projects?”

Fifth: The FMP does not grant Steve Murley or any other administrator “vast powers.” However anyone feels about the administration, that’s just a bunch of scary talk. As Mr. Street noted himself above, changes in the FMP are made by vote of elected board members. We are 4 years and $155 million dollars into this process, and every project has been carried out as specified int he plan which even Mr. Street recognizes as being changed only by majority vote of the elected board. Certainly there are legitimate complaints to be made about a number of issues in the district. Mr Street identifies several that are crucial for the board and administration to take immediate and thoughtful action on.  Voting down the bond will do nothing to help that, and in fact will put severe impediments in the way of any effort to do so.

Yes, it is a big deal if the GO Bond doesn’t pass.

There are folks in our community who are very busy assuring us that it’s no big deal if the upcoming GO Bond that funds the last half of the Facilities Master Plan doesn’t pass. Tom Carsner’s letter in the Press Citizen is one example. I’ve run into numerous others on social media.  Many (not all) who say this seem to have only recently engaged with school district issues, and most cite the technically true fact that a new and supposedly better) Bond could be put up as soon as 6 months after this one.  Michael Tilley has been following the development and execution of the Facilities Master Plan closely for a long time.  He’s written a post gaming out the probable outcomes of a failed Bond (spoiler, they aren’t good!), including why it would likely take much longer, and what the consequences of a delay of whatever length would be.

Michael’s post is thorough and instructive.  I just want to add a few thoughts to build on it.

  • The point I’d most like people, including Vote No advocates, to consider is the drain that reshuffling the FMP and mounting a new bond would put on the time, energy, and attention of the Board and central administration. This is a not-insignificant amount of work, particularly if it involves research to try to find out what elements need to be changed for a new bond to pass.  There will be 4 brand-new board members who will already be hitting the ground running with a host of issues to contend with, from the need for reform in Special Education, to the achievement gap between white and non-white and between affluent and poor students, to accessibility and standardization of playgrounds across the district, and more.  Many Vote No people cite their unhappiness about these issues as a reason to vote against the Bond, but voting down the bond will only ensure that the board can’t give its full attention to addressing those same issues.

    For context here, we should remember that School Board is an unpaid, volunteer position.  This means that Directors who aren’t independently wealthy (which would be all of them–which is good) have work lives (and family lives, etc.) to contend with outside of the board. I’m not saying this to generate sympathy for people who seek out this position, but to bring home the fact that there are limitations on the board’s time and energy as well as really urgent issues that need attention.

  • Many of the Vote No advocates cite a lack of transparency in board and administration decisions.  At the same time, these same people are also saying that a new plan (allowing for a re-figured list and order of projects) and a new Bond should be developed and put up for a vote in 6 months.  Think again about the impediments to such a process I noted above, and that Michael notes in greater detail, and try to imagine how it could be done with any kind of public input.  And then try to imagine how little other work could get done during that time.
  • Most Vote No advocates suggest that a “better” bond would be smaller, because that would make it more likely to pass.  That seems intuitively correct, but it isn’t necessarily so at all.  A smaller bond still has to clear 60% of the vote to pass, meaning that it’s likely to need votes from all across the District.  But by virtue of being smaller, such a bond would have a hard time including projects from all across the District.  As friend of the page Sara Barron has pointed out, we don’t have a great record of taking care of kids who aren’t our own in this district.  There are fierce geographic rivalries in play.  Even with the current bond, which balances projects in all areas pretty well, I know at least one person from the East side who is refusing to vote for it because it spends any money in the North, and several anonymous commenters on Director Liebig’s blog have argued that the bond spends too much money on the East side. This rivalry has played out poorly in school bond issues before in the district (and well, in about every other kind of issue as well) and it’s easy to imagine it doing the same here for a bond whose projects were limited to one side of the District or another.
  • The last point I’d make here is just that, while many Bond advocates argue for voting against the bond in order to “teach the District a lesson” or as a rebuke to Superintendent Murley, the real consequences will be felt by the kids and the teachers in our schools.

Vote No Fact Check: Tom Carsner’s Letter

Tom Carsner of Iowa City, one of the founders of the Vote No group opposed to the GO Bond, has a letter in the Press Citizen.  I disagree with a number of the letter’s assertions, and there are a few claims that are incorrect. I found myself writing a lengthy fact-check/counterargument on a post on social media, and decided to bring it over here.  Given time I might come back and edit this to include text from Tom’s letter here and save readers the trouble of going back and forth.  For now though, the letter is here, and my raw response is below.

1. Nothing about Alexander Elementary shows the unreliability of projections. Alexander has temporaries because the WRAM (Weighted Resource Allocation Model) put smaller classes there. Smaller classes with the same number of students = more classes & therefore more classrooms.
 
2. 1,500 extra seats sounds like a lot, until you divide it up by the 24 schools in the district, attended by 14,0000 students.  That’s actually less than the recommended 2% for a growing district.
 
3. Lincoln and Hills were not “originally planned to be closed.” There were many, many options considered in the planning process. Its quite a stretch to suggest that anything outside of what was actually approved by the committee and by the board could be described as “planned.”
 
4. If this is broken up into 3 bonds, each one is smaller. But each of those bonds has to get a 60 percent margin across the entire district, despite possibly only offering improvements to one or two parts of the District. Our history on proposals like this is not good, to say the least. The process of planning and mounting these bonds would occupy a significant amount of the board and administration’s time, taking time and energy away from the many, many issues that need to be addressed in the District. This would also add several years to an already lengthy process of addressing facilities needs that are even more longstanding.
 

5. It’s very, very unlikely that a brand-new board, with many other needful projects on its plate, would be able to mount a new bond that it had confidence in getting passed in just 6 months. This is particularly true if we take into account the need to prioritize projects across all three proposed bonds, and the need to gather public input s part of the basis for that prioritization. Michael Tilley predicts it would take two years. I’d agree.

Not only does this mean that students do without facilities longer, it also means that each project gets around 8% a year more expensive due to construction inflation.

 
6. Before even engaging the paragraph about Hoover, we should note that voting down the bond will not re-open Hoover. That would take a board decision. That decision could be made whether or not the bond passes. And, whether or not the bond passes, the board would still have to figure out how to pay for yearly operating expenses for that school and still pay for the operating expenses at both of the new elementary schools opening in neighborhoods that are not as well served by schools as Hoover. We are a “big district” but we are still dependent on the state’s per-pupil allocation to pay teacher and administrator salaries.
 
7. The administration cannot say what the Hoover land will be used for because it hasn’t entered the design phase for the City High project. It would be pretty foolish to spend money on that before we actually have funding for the project itself. Even absent that specific knowledge, its clear that the land will provide flexibility in the design and construction of expansions and additions at City High, flexibility that is important given its much smaller area compared to the other two high schools in the District.
 
8. Schools do provide community. Hoover sits within a mile of 3 other elementary schools and on the grounds of a high school. It’s closure will still leave that neighborhood well served by schools. The two new schools that the bond pays for are in neighborhoods that are comparatively underserved by schools. Certainly these neighborhoods deserve the community building benefits of a school? Certainly these are also “neighborhood schools”?
 
9. Regardless of how one feels about the Superintendent, decisions regarding the Facilities Master Plan are made by elected members of the Board of Education, by vote, in open meetings, following discussions in those meetings and in work sessions. Under the plan we have built $155 million dollars worth of projects in the last 4 years. these projects have been built as specified in the plan, on time, and at or under budget. The bond is not a reward for Superintendent Murlley, and its students and teachers who will suffer the primary consequences if it fails.
 
10. None of the issues listed as a basis for not trusting the administration is more likely to be addressed if the bond doesn’t pass. In fact, given the time and energy that pursuing a new bond and reworking the plan and timeline around new funding would take, its pretty clear that important issues like reforming special education will be harder to address if the bond fails.