Who Runs the Wichita School Bond Issue Campaign?

As reported in the Wichita Eagle in May, the co-leaders of Citizens Alliance for Responsible Education (CARE) knew very little of the details of a telephone survey their group conducted to discover Wichitans’ attitudes towards a school bond issue. That they knew so little gives the citizens of Wichita cause to question who is in charge of running the bond issue campaign.

Records requests made by this writer reveal that there is no contract in place between USD 259 (the Wichita public school district) and Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture covering the proposed bond issue in 2008. This raises a few questions:

First, has USD 259 effectively outsourced the promotion of a bond issue to an outside firm without a contract governing the relationship? It’s possible that Kansas law prevents them from writing such a contract. But if the bond issue is so important, it seems that the school district would want a formal relationship with the firm outsourcing its political work.

Second, if Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture is not being paid to promote the bond issue, why are they working so hard at it? Is it a sense of civic duty, or the prospect of large contracts following a successful bond issue campaign?

The relationship between the board of USD 259 and CARE is curious. Board members are full of effusive praise for the work that CARE has done. Perhaps when I am curious as to where to find USD 259 test scores, or if I want to know how USD 259 defines a violent act for statistical purposes, I should funnel the request for information through CARE. As detailed in my post For Wichita Public Schools, Even Simple Information Requests Seem a Problem, it can be difficult for an average citizen like me to obtain information from USD 259.

It’s hard to understand why the board of USD 259 has so much praise for and confidence in the work in CARE. In her article CARE Dropped Ball on Educating About Wichita School Bond Issue, Helen Cochran reveals the poor job CARE has done in its educational mission. This is the second time around for CARE, as Helen reminds us. Does CARE dare ask for a third chance?

The school district is fond of reminding us that “At the request of the Wichita Board of Education, more than 1,500 citizens assembled in fall 2007 to evaluate remaining critical needs, share their vision for Wichita’s public schools, and develop a strategic Facilities Master Plan which will support the continued growth and vitality of Wichita’s schools.” Aren’t any of these people available to help, or even attend educational meetings on a summer evening? (This passage is from a booklet on the USD 259 website that still promotes a May 6, 2008 election.)

Reporting in the Wichita Eagle indicates that the board is not likely to make a decision tonight about when to hold a bond issue election. Given this board’s record of calling for elections and changing the calendar when things aren’t going their way, we shouldn’t place much stock in whatever this board decides.

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