By Stephen Murley
On Tuesday, residents of the Iowa City Community School District will be asked to invest in the education of all students in the district. This vote represents an opportunity to provide support for the students currently enrolled in the district and for future generations.
At the onset of discussions about the need for a new revenue purpose statement, we reinforced that a vote in favor of the RPS does not result in a new tax and does not affect current tax rates. However, it is important to state that this is not a vote about a tax or a tax rate. This is a vote about something much more important: our children’s future.
Passage of a new RPS would serve as a crucial first step in guaranteeing that our schools can continue to meet the needs of every student in our growing district and provide each student the greatest opportunity to succeed. Since 2007, the District’s official enrollment has increased from 11,718 students to 12,774 students, and projections show a minimum growth of more than 200 students per year for the next five years. Because of this growth, the district is currently housing 41 classrooms in temporary facilities on 13 campuses.
These trends cannot be ignored. Knowing that this revenue stream is available is a key component for future facility planning. This is a vote about the long-term sustainability of our district.
Our classrooms and hallways are filled with the leaders of tomorrow. It is our responsibility to ensure that they are prepared to be successful members of society in the future. To meet this obligation, we must provide our students with an education that enables them to capitalize on the opportunities that await them after graduation.
We must modernize our current facilities and build new facilities to guarantee that a 21st century educational environment is available to all students in the district, regardless of where they live. The current “pay-as-you-go” method of utilizing School Infrastructure Local Option (SILO) sales tax funds simply falls short of providing the financial support needed to move the district forward at the standard our students deserve and at the level our community expects.
The administration presented the school board with “ONE Plan,” which lays out a framework for a multiyear facilities plan to address numerous district needs under an aggressive timeline. This plan provides for major renovations and upgrades to older schools. It also funds the purchase of land to build three new elementary schools and a new high school.
The board received this plan and endorsed this framework to improve our facilities. I am confident that this plan provides great benefit to all students throughout the district.
In preparation for this work, the district is undertaking a classroom-by-classroom, building-by-building evaluation of current facilities. This information will be used to guide the decisions of the administrative team and the board as these funds are put to use improving our facilities.
Over the past few weeks, our community has engaged in deep and passionate discussion regarding the diversity of our schools. Regardless of participants’ address or attendance zone, commitment to public education has resonated throughout these conversations. I am proud to serve a community that cares so deeply about the education our children receive.
While much of the discussion regarding the RPS has focused on taxes and facilities, this vote is truly about our children. The time has come for our community to vote on a new RPS that invests in our children. One Community, One District, One Plan.
Stephen Murley is superintendent for the Iowa City Community School District. To learn more about the vote and the ONE Plan, visit iowacityschools.org. Comments: Murley.Stephen@iccsd.k12.ia.us