FORT WORTH — A political action committee called It’s OK to Say No to the School Bond has formed to raise questions about debt tied to an estimated $490 million bond program for Fort Worth schools.“Is it worth the money?” asked Georgia Stapleton, a spokeswoman for the group. “It just seems like an exorbitant expense.”The political action committee is the third group formed in connection with the bond referendum, set to go before voters Nov. 5. Two groups have formed in favor of the bond package: FWISD Parents for Kids and Citizens Supporting Classroom Excellence, backed by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.The district is asking voters to approve a bond plan that would pay for classroom additions and security and technology upgrades. The bond program also includes two specialized campuses — a performing/fine arts academy and a science, technology, engineering and math campus. Early voting starts Oct. 21.Kent Kallmeyer of Fort Worth is listed as the campaign treasurer. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.Stapleton said members of the group have attended town hall meetings held by the school district to get more details.“We’ve had people who have reported back and said, ‘Oh, my gosh, it is going to be enormous,’” Stapleton said. The group is raising questions about potential debt tied to this bond program and past ones. Members want to know what percentage of the budget is used to pay interest on the 2007 bond program.“It’s not OK to harm our children’s education and it’s unfortunate that people would want to deprive our children of the opportunities to have a better education,” said Judy Needham, a school board member. “Our facilities and our technology will fall behind.”Trustee Tobi Jackson said: “I think that it is always better in the public opinion if there is open discourse. Opposition always strengthens a position. Let’s come out and ask those tough questions and hold the district accountable. The only way the city gets better is to have great education.”Stapleton said the group also questions how the bond program will affect the district’s credit rating.“We citizens and taxpayers are worried about it,” she said.Jennifer Frank, a parent with children at Paschal High School and Stripling Middle School, echoed issues raised by the new PAC. While she supports Superintendent Walter Dansby, she said, too many questions are unanswered.Frank said she wants to know the district’s total bond debt, as well as how much real estate the district owns and whether any of it can be leveraged to pay for proposed projects.“My other problem with this bond are the luxury items,” Frank said. “IPads and laptops for all students. We don’t know if they are going to have GPS tracking in them. … We are supposed to pay for all the students to have these?”In August, the Star-Telegram reported that Fort Worth business leaders created Citizens Supporting Classroom Excellence. On Sept. 24, the Star-Telegram reported the creation of FWISD Parents for Kids.Proponents and opponents of the bond are using social media: Both FWISD Parents for Kids and It’s OK to Say No to the School Bond have active Facebook pages.The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s website lists ways for supporters to contribute to Citizens Supporting Classroom Excellence. The group is asking large and medium-size businesses to consider donations of $15,000, $10,000, $5,000 or $2,500.The first campaign finance reports related to the election are due Monday, according to the school district.
Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326 Twitter: @jessamybrown Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianeasmith1