The superintendent of The Thompson School District, Stan Scheer, recently published a guest editorial about two items on the November 2016 ballot, which voters subsequently rejected. One was a proposed mill levy override, and the other was a proposed bond. The former would have supposedly provided an estimated $11 million and would have been used for teacher and staff salaries. The latter, which would have allegedly raised $288 million, would have been used to build new schools, address maintenance issues within the district, and “re-align the district to make it much more efficient”. (Academic-speak for spending large amounts of taxpayer money with little or no accountability associated.)
In his opinion piece Mr. Scheer asked why the measures failed to pass, and then attempted to provide explanation for the failures. His explanation, according to voters in the district who opposed the ballot items, was condescending and insulting, and ignored financial reality for many who call the district home. Many considered the requests too much and unacceptable. Many, because they are on fixed incomes, voted as they did – against the measures – because they cannot afford the contribution currently required of them, and knew that they could not afford more.
Many also expressed an opinion about how money is currently spent, including Mr. Scheer’s salary and benefits, and the cost of his immediate administration.
Despite these relevant facts Mr. Scheer, in his op/ed, continued with his argument for more funds for the district, using as a starting point another ballot measure voters approved several years ago, which should have been factored into the long-term financial plan for the district: Since 2009 the state, because of ballot measures voters supported, has reduced the amount of money paid to the district for its costs. Instead of adjusting for these “shortfalls” (as Mr. Scheer calls them), the district continues to call for more money from taxpayers in the district.
His argument, according to many voters in the district, falls on deaf ears because many, unlike Mr. Scheer, are financially pragmatic and realistic: You cannot spend money you do not have.
Mr. Scheer was likely aware of this reality, but continued in his attempts to get more money for his pursuit and agenda by citing facts that other districts use; effectively contradicting his claims and implicitly discrediting his position.
More than a few voters/taxpayers have noticed Mr. Scheer’s slight-of-hand and more than a few have taken due offense to his contempt for them – and this is why they voted as they did.
This brings up the matter of the now-defunct local newspaper, which allowed supporters of Mr. Scheer to insult and threaten their opposition on the newspaper’s web site by way of Disqus accounts, established under fake names. Rarely is success achieved when one person denigrates another.
Although public education requires and merits funding, how that is determined and achieved should not include dishonest wordsmithing and actions best left to young children who do not know better. Behavior accurately described as “sandbox politics”.
A challenge to all Coloradans: Taxpayers and voters alike decide the finances of public education. What should be funded and what should be cut, and why?