Investment in Wichita Public Schools

Part of the Wichita Eagle opinion watch series. An audio broadcast of this article may be heard by clicking here.

A letter writer in the April 27, 2008 Wichita Eagle makes the case that investment in USD 259 (the Wichita, Kansas public school district) has a good return.

By way of comparison, the writer argues that the Wichita airport, having been built with public funds, represents “an investment return.” Whether it represents a good return on investment the writer doesn’t say, but I believe he means that the airport was a good investment of public funds.

The mere fact that the airport exists, however, doesn’t prove a good return on investment. Since the airport is owned by government and doesn’t calculate its profit or loss in a competitive market, we can never know how wise is the “investment” made in the Wichita airport.

Then the writer really gets off track. He speaks of “my own school bond issue within my family,” that being day care, preschool, K through 12, then a degree at the University of Kansas and a master’s degree. These activities are all voluntary choices that the writer and his family made. Taxation by the government, however, is not voluntary. The writer might also be reminded that it may be a voluntary choice to attend the University of Kansas, but the people of the State of Kansas have no choice but to fund its operations.

Finally, the writer states “Some opponents of the school bond issue have even said the kids in USD 259 don’t need tornado shelters. That is ridiculous.” It is true that 60 schools in the Wichita school district don’t have safe rooms, and this situation is the result of decisions made by the school district and its board. They had an opportunity to build more safe rooms as part of the bond issue in 2000, but they decided to spend the money on other things. Similarly, each year the district has a large capital budget to spend, and each year they decide to spend it on things other than safe rooms. Blame for the lack of storm shelters, therefore, rests solely with the Wichita school district. They have decided that other things are more important.

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