By Sally Cauble, Kansas Board of Education
I have always been proud to call Southwest Kansas my home, and the people of Liberal are very near and dear to my heart. Recently, the Citizens for Responsible Growth, along with community members, are working hard to pass a bond which will improve the city schools, and I could not be more supportive.
The community has come together to make a plan for their children. There have been 34 community meetings, 10 visioning committee meetings, and two patron surveys. 787 people attended those community meetings and 730 people responded to those surveys.
This isn’t a plan that has been thrown together behind closed doors – this is a carefully thought out solution brought about by the community, for the community.
The people of Liberal see that learning is different today. Instead of students sitting in rows listening to the teacher lecture, they are now arranged in small group centers of 4 or 5 students in each of the 4 or 5 groups. This method of learning requires more physical classroom space than the traditional methods, and the people of Liberal acknowledge this.
Their new plan includes adding 150,000 more square feet to the district. Unfortunately, another difference from the way things used to be is the safety concerns. Now we need to know who is walking into our school buildings. We can’t have school offices situated in the middle of the buildings with no line of sight to the front door.
The community wants their children to be safe. They have made plans that include proper sight lines as well as storm shelters.
This plan not only improves our students’ lives, but also the lives of anyone living in, or around, Liberal.
An economic impact report prepared by Impact DataSource of Austin, Texas, estimated that there would be 344 direct jobs created and 264 indirect jobs created each year of construction. The total economic impact on Liberal’s economy would be $190.8 million.
Every good business person knows you have to spend money to make money, and the people of Liberal are no exception. With these new buildings, more business, doctors and other professionals will be enticed to come to Liberal, providing even more economic growth.
As of right now, the state will pay 49 percent of the total cost. Another 22 percent will be paid for by the ½-cent sales tax. That means property owners will only have to pay for 29 percent. That’s a deal you can’t beat. Of course, the opportunity to take advantage of the state aide won’t last since the state may not be able to make that same offer after July 1.
Liberal is full of sensible, hardworking people, and I know that they will make the right decision for their children and their community by voting “Yes” to the bond and “Yes” to the sales tax on the April 8th ballot.