Thursday, March 26, 2009

Will the Brawl Brewing in Fort Bend ISD Be Defused?

If you are even mildly interested in local Fort Bend County school board politics, or in science education in general, your attention must have been drawn to an item of discussion that has cropped up in the run-up to the May 9th elections where all too few voters will decide who will fill two seats on the Fort Bend ISD School Board.

While policies in tax dollar expenditures are a common topic in school board elections, the issue has become focused on the proposition to build a Global Science and Technology Center whose construction has been recently proposed, and whose feasibility is currently under study by a select group of individuals who represent the district and the local community.

Position 2 on the Board of Trustees is currently held by Sonal Bhuchar who is running for re-election. She is being challenged on the ballot by oil and gas industry consultant Carlos Cain who opposes construction of the center. As outlined in this article, and in a previous posting of mine, the issue of whether or not to build this centerpiece structure in Fort Bend ISD has become the central point of contention in the Position 2 contest, and has also been addressed in the Position 6 race, currently an open seat, that is being sought by three individuals, two of whom, have also come out against the construction.

FortBendNow focused on Position 2, due to the presence of an incumbent I imagine, and due to the obvious differences in the opinions of the respective candidates on whether this science center should be built.

From FortBendNow:

“‘I am in favor of anything that will help our students academically,’ Cain said recently. However, ‘I can’t in good conscience justify spending $40 million or whatever when we don’t have enough copy paper for our teachers, when we’ve got kids sharing textbooks and we’re telling principals we can’t make all the building repairs that are needed.’”


“‘How can you oppose something if you don’t know all the facts?’ Bhuchar asked, noting that a district-appointed feasibility committee, chaired by former Sugar Land mayor David Wallace, has just begun the first of several community meetings seeking comment on the proposal. ‘Everyone has tremendous concerns over the financing of it, myself included. But let’s see what they come back with,” she said of the feasibility committee.’”

Both candidates exhibit legitimate concerns on expenditure of public funds. Bhuchar, however, hints around something that I think is almost assuredly in the mix: the fact that the center will not be financed by public funds.

In the reality that is Fort Bend County, taxpayers are irate over their property taxes and school taxes which are collected at the same time. Some of these are legitimate concerns, and some of these concerns, in my opinion are knee jerk reactions from people who don’t know, can’t know, and have little appreciation for how much a quality education costs in this day and age. They just don’t want to pay anything of any real substance for education and view all calls for additional educational funding with a venomous eye.

And given past practices in the district, they generally expect that they will also be asked to foot the bill for this project in Fort Bend ISD.

And therefore think they have a point to make and can take issue with this new construction project.

But what if Bhuchar’s words “…let’s see what they come back with,” referring to the feasibility committee’s work, means that there is a concerted effort underfoot to line up a collection of corporate sponsors to privately fund this project? Really, there are lots of science/technology-based corporations in the immediate area, not to mention the corporate employers of many of the parents of Fort Bend ISD students.

My question, then, is this: if the funding is found, and the Global Science and Technology Center is planned and built with this private sector funding, is there any further objection to the project? Private sector funds in this case would never be used to buy textbooks, copier paper, or pay salaries of teachers. These funds are donated with the express purpose of seeing this thing get done.

I wonder about this, because I wonder what happens if, down the road, the feasibility study is completed, say one week before the election, and all of the objections of the candidates who opposed the project dissipate with the news that $25 million in private funding have been lined up.

That is, if this is what happens, having all of your eggs in one basket seems like a very bad idea because the whole issue could become moot.


Anonymous said...

If they had 25 Million bucks lined up, there would not be a sales pitch to the public. There would be a ground breaking ceremony with all the movers & shakers in the pic as Jenny & the BOT stick the first shovel in the ground. The public would find out about the "Taj Majal" when we saw it in the newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Ck these out:


Anonymous said...

Maybe these times are a changing for FBISD if we get off our duffs and vote these outspoken ones in!

Anonymous said...

I've claimed this was a possible tactic all along by the insiders at the admin office. A red herring diversion to divert from the 10 million dollar deficit. After all the week before an election they can claim anything they want now can't they, but it still doesn't CHANGE THE FACT THAT NOTHING IN THIS PROPOSAL OFFERS ANY NEW FACILITIES THAT AREN'T ALREADY IN THE IMMEDIATE AREA. Do we really need more vendor feeding projects? You can build at least 2-3 campuses for the price of this thing.

Anonymous said...

There is a Discovery Museum being prepared for opening in Telfair (sugar Land) now. Our area cannot support two similar projects of this magnitude. Science is about reason and rational thinking, not faith and thrills in more development. When we understand what science is and is not, we will be in a better position to rethink much of our local school budget. Smaller class sizes and science teachers who are allowed to say the "E" word (evolution) would be a good start.