In the past 10 years Racine Unified School District expenditures have been in excess of $2 billion and the District now has an annual budget approaching $300 million.
During this same period of time Racine taxpayers were given numerous promises that new programs would improve student performance and approved 9 referendums in support of facility upgrades, prevention of program cuts and an increase in the fund balance.
Now the current school board and administration have a new plan and are asking the taxpayers to approve a $128.5 million referendum to implement the first phase of a 3-Phase plan that will end up costing over $300 million.
The Racine Taxpayers Association will always support a good education system and we fully understand the value of a high school diploma for every student. However, we are not in agreement with the school board and administrations premise for these expenditures, and when combined with their lack of fiscal discipline, we cannot recommend taxpayer support for any of the referendum questions.
RTA members and guests at a forum
In the past few decades there have been numerous studies, reports and experiments in education at every level. You can find a report supporting almost anything you want to try.
However, reality, cost and performance must eventually prevail. RUSD's idea that new buildings and smaller school size will improve student performance and family & staff engagement has minimal statistical supporting evidence and just as much data debunking it.
Having smaller class sizes shows more success, but even those studies conclude that the skill ofthe teacher is the most important factor.
The Racine Unified School District has implemented programs for the advanced learner, the slow leamer, special ed students, those in poverty, at risk, in juvenile detention, summer school, after school, pre-school and numerous elective choices. All of these seem to be worthwhile but they have been expensive and have produced minimal evidence that they are achieving the desired academic results.
George Meyers & John Haumersen
We are told that our schools are crumbling and there is a $98 million backlog of maintenance projects.
It is our contention that the Racine Unified School District has shown a lack of fiscal restraint in determining what is needed, what works and what is nice to have.
It seems the emphasis of educating every student in the core subjects of Reading, English and Math, may have gotten lost in a maze of new and exciting educational experiments and temporary government funded programs that end up costing too much.
Their refusal to prioritize funds for the maintenance of our schools indicates their belief that the taxpayer will always bail them out.
Neither the RUSD administration nor the school board has ever given, or has the local media ever demanded, a thorough analysis of the efficient and effective use of the district's expenditures.
This referendum is being sold with words: smart schools, smart class sizes, common planning time, build staff capacity, student and family engagement, master teachers and coaches and with the fear of the areas economic decline without it.
Most of us live in the world of reality and fact and will need far more justification for this enormous spending request.
We realize it is easy to criticize from the outside looking in, however, we have not formed our opinion because we just want to say no to this referendum. We have reviewed past budget and performance reports and come to the conclusion that RUSD's operating costs can, and could have in the past, be significantly reduced and generate needed funds for much of what they are requesting in this referendum.