Guest Opinion: Vote ‘Yes’ on school bond before Sept. 12



Members of the board listen as a member of the public addresses the Iowa City School Board on Tuesday June 13, 2017. (The Daily Iowan/Nick Rohlman)

I no longer have students in my family going to our public schools. But as a former Iowa City city councilor and current University of Iowa faculty member, here’s why I encourage you to vote yes for the school bond on or before Sept. 12. It’s because I got what I wanted. I wanted a School District plan that was fashioned out of the fiery furnace of a grass-roots democratic process. Four years ago, I sat through many meetings at randomized tables with a lot of passionate people. We the people fashioned a 10-year plan that would transform all of our schools to an equitable standard that could serve our students and teachers for the next century. None of the other people at my tables got exactly what they wanted. A few of them were destined to walk away and make sure the agreed-upon plan would never be funded. Most of the table admitted begrudging support that this so called Facilities Master Plan was “fair to all.” It wasn’t fun — but it was “us,” and for those who were involved from the beginning, it was a long, tedious, process.

We needed to do this because in Iowa, the most rapidly growing school districts need to ask to bond for extra money about every 15 years to keep up the extra pace. Well, it’s that time again. Our School District is the fifth-largest and third-fastest growing. We will soon be fourth-largest. Because the student population is growing so rapidly and the scope of the plan is so great, it is natural that the amount asked is more than bond requests in the past. I may not have children studying in our schools anymore, but I do need to be honest when I recruit people to move to our community who assume a university town would have the best schools in the state. Do we? Will we? I have come to understand that physically degrading school buildings lead to destabilization of their neighborhoods as departing families and supporting business look elsewhere for better schools.

The last six years of the 10-year plan don’t get funded unless more than 60 percent of those voting vote “Yes.” This is really hard to do. If this vote for the bond fails, then it’s every school and every neighborhood for itself because there will be less money available for those who didn’t get what they wanted. All the planned discussion that I witnessed before will be replaced by piecemeal and very public squabbling over the years to come. 

For that and all those reasons and, oh yes — the children and their teachers — I urge you to vote and vote yes before or on Sept. 12.

— Rick Dobyns
Iowa City


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