On Tuesday, May 23rd, voters in Adams County have an important decision to make. The Natchez Adams County School District is asking voters to approve a $35 million bond to finance the building of a brand new high school.
The bond will be paid off over a twenty year period through an increase in property taxes. This of course raises a red flag in the minds of conservatives for many reasons.
First, throwing money at a building does not increase quality of education. In 2014, the Natchez Adams County School District spent $10,253 per student. This is double the amount local private schools are spending per student. What was the result? The Mississippi Board of Education gave them a D rating. Compare the spending to the Noxubee County School District at $10,457 per student and the South Delta School at $12,022 per student, and you will discover that these school districts also received a D rating. This may lead you to ask which school districts are receiving As. Here are a few examples: DeSoto County which spends $7,051 per student and Long Beach which spends $7,890 per student.
Second, approving $35 million in spending on a new high school building means that the local school district will continue with the failed status quo. As the Natchez Adam School District routinely receives an F rating and never scores higher than D, it is clear that new leadership and new ideas are desperately needed. Once a community makes such a large investment and receives a pretty new building, the incentive to change leadership or implement new policy vanishes. It will be extremely difficult to bring in a charter school or elect new members to the school board after such an investment is made.
Lastly, when the government asks the tax payers for a specific dollar amount, the actual cost always ends up being greater. Many questions have yet to be answered. Who is getting the bid on the construction of the new school? Will the construction be done by a local business or will they bring in outside contractors? How long will it be before the Natchez Adams School District is once again asking the voters for money? Some may call these concerns cynical, but after decades of failure, a certain amount of skepticism towards local leaders is healthy.
Students in Adams County deserve better. They have had to endure failed decisions and poor leadership for far too long. The time for new leadership and better, more creative education policy is long past due. Contrary to what the failed academic establishment and their cheer leaders would have you believe, a vote against this reckless spending is a vote for better opportunity for future generations. Please support our local students by voting no on May 23rd.
Richard Burke is a lover of liberty and music. He lives in Natchez.