Editorial: FWISD, county bond proposals are expensive but deserve support

There’s a famous quote that’s often attributed to the late Everett Dirksen, longtime U.S. senator from Illinois, loquacious observer of the human condition and sometime critic of the government’s profligate spending habits: “A billion here, a billion there – before long, you’re talking about real money.”

Turns out he never said it, at least not in such pithy language.

But whatever or whoever the source, it’s a great quote – although in the economic climate that now prevails in the halls of Congress once roamed by Dirksen, it needs to be updated: “A trillion here, a trillion there …”

Here in Fort Worth and environs trillions are no doubt lurking just around the corner, but for the moment local politicians are still dabbling in the realm of millions and the occasional billion. That’s billion with a B – as in the nearly $1.5 billion bond proposal the Fort Worth Independent School District has placed on the Nov. 2 election ballot, where it joins a Tarrant County bond request for the comparatively meager sum of half a billion.

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Elections are also being held in several other area school districts and municipalities along with statewide voting on eight proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. If you just can’t wait for the polls to open next Tuesday, early voting locations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Friday, Oct. 29.

With Congress shoveling trillions onto the table in Washington amid the economic uncertainties wrought by pandemic and inflation, local taxpayers might take one look at that eye-popping spending plan being floated by the FWISD and simply say, “No way! Not now, not ever.”

But that would be a mistake. Staggering though it is, the school district’s request involves many desperately needed capital improvements to an education infrastructure that has long been neglected in the face of other needs and other claims on taxpayers’ wallets. The biggest chunk of the money, $1.2 billion (Proposition A), would go toward construction and renovation of aging middle schools with the remainder, Propositions B, C and D, going toward fine arts, athletic and recreational facilities.

Critics of the proposal have wondered why a school district that is seriously underperforming in academic achievement would make such an enormous commitment to physical infrastructure rather than focusing all possible resources on teaching and learning. But these facility upgrades will affect teaching and learning – students and teachers can’t possibly do their best in cramped, run-down, ill-equipped facilities.

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Sooner or later, these improvements must be made. If not now, when? We’re concerned about the cost, but we’re endorsing all four propositions. We urge you to say yes to the FWISD bond proposal.

We’re also on board with Tarrant County’s request for $400 million to relieve traffic congestion with improvements to roads that have been problematic for decades. While politicians in Washington argue endlessly over infrastructure, Tarrant County’s leaders have decided to do something about it. We urge a yes vote on the county’s Proposition A.

We likewise endorse Proposition B, a $116 million plan to build and equip new facilities for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office. These improvements are long overdue in a growing county with ever-increasing demands on its criminal justice system.

When it comes to the proposed amendments to the state constitution, we are all in with Proposition 1, which would allow rodeos to join other professional sports in offering raffles to raise money for charitable purposes. Among the major beneficiaries will be the more than 11,000 youths from Texas who compete annually in the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

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Our rodeo and stock show will be back in 2022 after going dark this year because of the pandemic and the show’s organizers are already planning how to run these raffles and how to distribute the money, which will be added to the more than $3.6 million in educational scholarships awarded to 1,623 Texas 4H and FFA students since 1987 through the stock show’s annual Calf Scramble program.

Absolutely vote yes for Proposition 1, the state constitutional amendment allowing rodeos to hold raffles.