My View

My view: Clover schools bond package needs to be revised

March 19, 2014 

There are a few nutshell reasons why this version of the Clover Schools Bond cannot be supported. The bond package will have to be revised and an improved plan should be voted on later this year or next.

We believe establishing mega-schools is bad precedent. There are federal grants aimed at remedying the problems of mega schools, so adopting a mega school structure instead of focusing on creating more individualized learning programs through smaller schools (like Fort Mill and other districts have done) is preferred. Voting for the bond creates the mega schools at the high school and middle school levels, and once you have invested $100 million in developing mega schools, you will not be able to undo the long-term damage or allow the ability to reverse course to smaller schools. Playing in larger, more perceivable competitive sports programs is not a sufficient reason to support the corresponding penalty to student educational achievement.

We don’t like the marketing strategy of buying votes to support the bond through voting the bond as a package – and by selling the (educationally unrelated) swim complex and quasi-community center as the “inducement” to purchase the community’s support of the bond. The bond needs to be purely for education. It should be able to succeed with community support for its educational objectives alone, without tying educationally unrelated amenities to gain support.

The bond shouldn’t be used to compete with local businesses, and should not be used to define community winners and losers. The bond highlights a swim facility to be awarded to the YMCA, which is a business in the local community seeking to gain recreational facility memberships. There are, however, several other businesses in the area that compete for the same exercise and recreational facility business from the same community. Those businesses provide jobs and pay taxes locally. Awarding the YMCA a no-cost/no-investment advantage over competing local businesses makes the bond an unfair competitive strategy as against other tax paying businesses in the community. Plus, the Clover School Board should not engage in this type of strategy. The bond should be purely educationally based.

We don’t like the unintended consequences of setting a 20- to 50-year precedent for schools, which is what spending $100 million will do. There is a massive amount of undeveloped acreage in the Lake Wylie area. This bond would directly impact how land use will unfold over the next few decades, so studying optimal locations for smaller schools in Lake Wylie will be a lost opportunity if this bond is not voted down and renegotiated for a longer term.

We don’t like how the bond’s proposed usage doesn’t compliment the recent Census results. Lake Wylie’s growth far outstrips Clover and will for decades. By supporting the bond, Lake Wylie hands over a sizable chunk of its future, which will be regretted in future years as property values and Lake Wylie community planning suffers due to larger schools, decreased property values and lost opportunities.

We don’t like the lack of full disclosure regarding true costs. The bond is not $67 million, it is $99 million – plus an interest carry. There are also new maintenance, infrastructure, equipment and other costs that balloon out over time.

Finally, we don’t like the pressure tactics. Part of what always tells a voter when someone is trying to sell them a false bill of goods is when they hear “if you don’t vote for this the sky will fall.” Clover says all of a sudden that overcrowding will be so bad, so immediately, that trailers will have to be used. But, in reality, Clover has $23 million it can use to address the “overcrowding crisis” without a bond. That tells me they will represent what they need to, so the bond will pass regardless of reality. For that reason, in addition to the others, the bond vote cannot be supported.

Allen Nason, an attorney, lives in Lake Wylie with his family, including two school-aged children.

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