What we’d like to see, however, is an elevated discussion, with both sides acknowledging the areas of agreement: We all want the best for Tyler students, and we’re really only debating the best way to achieve that.
Tyler schools have been hobbled by low educational attainment measures for years. That’s a given. School officials say that’s improving, and better test scores and overall outcomes should be reflected in the new state-wide STAAR test results, when they become available.
But the discussion of educational attainment — as vital as it is — shouldn’t crowd out the parallel discussion of how to provide the best facilities for students and teachers. Critics of the bond issue, as well as proponents, must sit down together and talk about ways to make the district better.
The underlying issue, although no one really wants to mention it, is the desegregation order that was handed down in July of 1970. At that time, it seems Tyler threw up its hands and allowed the federal court to make its decisions. Little money was spent on facilities, so we’re now confronting problems that go back more than four decades.
Yet Tyler is not a tax-adverse community. Despite their reputations, Tyler voters do get behind bond issues, when the taxing authorities make their case. A series of “no” votes for TISD bonds — when school officials failed to make their case — was followed by two important “yes” votes that resulted in new elementary schools for Tyler’s growing population. The last bond issue passed with a 2-1 ratio.
But Tyler voters are savvy — perhaps the savviest in the state. When Tyler school officials talk about issuing bonds without raising the tax rate, Tyler voters know that while the claim might be true, on its face, there really is a pocketbook impact of the vote. You see, when voters in previous years approved bond elections, they agreed to a tax rate hike for a limited amount of time. So when bond payments roll off of the tax rate — as they’re scheduled to do — any issue of new bonds results in more taxes for Tyler property owners.
Therefore, it’s the duty of the school district to make its case. They aren’t doing it alone, as there appears to be a new constituency of parents and boosters in the “Tyler Proud” movement. It will be interesting to see if this movement can translate its email list of public school supporters into actual votes.
The group formed to oppose the bond issue is asking important questions. But it, too, should do more. The “No More Excuses, Tyler ISD!” committee must step up to help find solutions to the problems that affect us all — and not merely redundantly reminding the public of the problems (this could be demonstrated by task force participation from members of each coalition to assist in the areas of educational results).
We’d like to see a new dialogue. We’re all on the same side here — the side of a flourishing and attractive public school system.