Tuesday, April 06, 2004


First, come see


for a well-written article from the Chicago Tribune on Nebraska’s ‘’un-testing’’ system of statewide assessments. Unlike other states, Nebraska relies on ‘’portfolios’’ of student work reviewed by teachers, instead of norm-based standardized testing. It was a ‘’front-page’’ feature on the Yahoo home page today. Tomorrow, Go Big Ed will report on another excellent article on Nebraska’s approach that is not so complimentary.

Second, it’ll be interesting to see if voters in the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee Mission, Kan., approve a $184 million bond issue today. The school district says it needs the money to rehab aging school facilities and keep current. But a taxpayer group says the dough’s all for show and vote no.

Taxpayers Against Xcess, led by a tax watchdog and investment firm owner Joe Kain, says it’s irresponsible for the school district to burden taxpayers with huge new debt right when both the state and the county are reeling in budget woes.

They point out that higher property taxes will lead to higher rents and higher retail prices in the area, as property owners seek to pass on higher property taxes to their customers. They also say that there has been declining enrollment in the landlocked district, which is similar to Omaha’s District 66.

As critics said of big bond issues in Westside’s recent past, critics in Kansas City are saying that this bond issue is a shameless attempt to ‘’one-up’’ surrounding school districts, including the Blue Valley Schools, to get fancier athletic facilities than they have, when what parents and taxpayers really want is better-quality education, which doesn’t cost extra millions.

The school district wants to close two ‘’open-concept’’ schools -- schools built without interior walls, which were in vogue 30 or 40 years ago -- but which are horrible for behavior management, horrible for testing, and horrible for simple educational tasks such as reading. Critics said so, back when funding was sought for these schools, but as usual, the educational steamroller ignored them. The district wants to build new grade schools to replace them now.

The bonds also would be used for library renovations, new science labs, theatrical stage upgrades, new TVs and mobile wireless computer labs, a renovated ‘’animal room’’ for wild animals, an auditorium lobby upgrade, and lots of athletic upgrades. The latter includes a $4.5 million replacement football stadium with prescription artificial turf, a wood-floor basketball court with seating for 500, locker rooms, restrooms, training facilities and athletic offices.

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