Just over three years ago, Arlington voters approved the largest school bond package in the history of Tarrant County.
While it’s still a work in progress, now would seem a good time to check in on the results of that election and see if the district’s more than 63,000 students are becoming the beneficiaries of that decision.
Or have the complaints of naysayers in that election proven to be legitimate?
They were, after all, fierce in their determination to persuade voters to reject the proposal.
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The opposition threw all kinds of negative scenarios into their campaign to defeat the work of the citizens’ committee that had designed more than $660 million in new resources for Arlington’s public school system.
In the end only 3 of every 10 voters agreed with their attacks as the measure won by a 40-point margin, even though the result would include an increase in school property taxes.
Last week Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos delivered a comprehensive report to an overflow crowd gathered for the annual luncheon to hear the district’s progress in implementing the work promised.
He began by reinforcing his goal of seeing 100 percent of AISD students graduate “exceptionally prepared for college, career and citizenship.”
Interestingly, that promise was attacked by the naysayers in the bond campaign as being unrealistic. They never said which students should be left out of the goal to succeed but just that it was ridiculous to claim such a thing.
Cavazos and the board of trustees he reports to are undeterred by negative attitudes. The resources provided by voters are producing real opportunities to help students, teachers, administrators and staff to succeed.
New facilities completed, near completion and underway include a fine arts center and a major career and technical center offering 17 new career programs serving close to 5,000 students, including those in a new agricultural science center.
In all there are 100 projects being developed. About a fourth of them ae finished, 32 are under construction, 45 are in the design phase and all of them are on schedule and on budget.
The partnership with Tarrant County College, UT-Arlington, and the city of Arlington is in full operation.
That outcome was just as promised by Jeff Williams, the chairman of the campaign to pass the bond package. His election as mayor a year later ensures the continued growth of that collaboration.
The district conducts an annual parent and employee survey to measure outcomes, and those scores determined by more than 14,000 responses are impressive.
In the final analysis, student achievement is the top priority. Across the district the results are impressive and growing.
There are distinction designations, urban schools’ awards, showcase schools, fine arts recognitions and the innovative collegiate high school programs that have been featured in U.S. News & World Report.
As a result of $660 millions in new resources, voters said they wanted to invest in their children. Cavazos concluded his report saying, “The future will be built through education, every child has great potential, and the opportunities that exist today have never existed to this extent before.”
The takeaway seems obvious. Shortsighted negative thinking produces almost nothing of value. Arlington voters understand that, see the vision and realize the priority of preparing the next generation to succeed.
Upward momentum in the life of the community inspires all. The programs of public education are leading the way, and that results in a win for every citizen.
There seems to be a message in this to legislators wanting to limit the ability of citizens to manage the affairs of their cities and school districts: Provide the support we deserve and then leave us alone.
Our success demands nothing less and nothing more.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.