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January 2013: Bonds Help without Tax Rate Hike

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Read the superintendent’s column that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal today, Jan. 8.

January 8, 2013

It’s amazing what can happen when a community invests in its schools.

We often talk about parent and community involvement and the difference it makes in the lives of students. When we come together with a singular focus on our kids, there’s no limit to how far they can go.

Now, Albuquerque Public Schools – students, teachers, parents, grandparents, administrators and supporters – is asking to you consider the places where the learning happens every day.

On Feb. 5, less than a month from today, APS is asking voters to go to the polls. At stake is $368 million for capital improvements around the district. That translates into updated classrooms, renovated school buildings, computers, improved Internet access and much more.

This community has a history of supporting our schools; the last bond/mill levy election in 2010 got the support of more than two thirds of voters. For that, I thank you.

We’re now at a critical juncture. Our buildings are getting old – the average age of an APS school is 45 years. Six of our high schools are more than 50 years old. Though we have added 4 million square feet of new facility space in the past decade and renovated another 5 million, more work needs to be done.

These funds, if approved by voters, will provide for the construction of new classrooms and upgrade infrastructure in our older schools. About a third of it will go toward technology upgrades, a critical component for learning in the 21st century.

The good news? This can be done without an increase in tax rates.

You’ve seen what capital funding allowed us to accomplish at Del Norte High School. It has modern classrooms with state-of-the-art science and computer labs. A similar rebuilding project has begun at Sandia High. Eventually, we’re going to rebuild or renovate Rio Grande, Valley, West Mesa and Manzano. A few new buildings already have been completed for schools on some of those campuses with bond money from previous elections, and that effort will continue.

The district continues to monitor crowded classrooms, too. We’re going to build one efficient school that will serve kindergarten through eighth grade next to Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, creating an education corridor on the Southwest Mesa.

Early planning is under way for another education corridor near I-40 and 98th Street on property APS purchased more than a year ago. That complex is years away, but the new football stadium across the street is expected to be up and running by next fall. Taxpayer support makes the stadium and adjacent track and field possible.

Add in APS-authorized charter schools as well. We’re working with six of our charters to find them permanent spaces and have put $14 million into that effort. Work has already begun on new buildings at Montessori of the Rio Grande and South Valley Academy. We have dedicated more than $34 million to charter design and construction over the next four years, more than any other authorizer.

The fact is construction for schools is a big part of the Albuquerque economy. Voters who approved these funds helped put people to work, and have created excellent, state-of-the-art facilities that help our students succeed. Just a few years ago, nearly 70 percent of all commercial construction permits in Albuquerque were issued to build and upgrade your schools.

Each successful election changes the face of the district and re-shapes the learning that goes on in our schools. Modern schools are a source of pride for students and staff, but it goes much deeper than that: New buildings and new technology give our kids the chance to academically compete at the very highest levels.

On behalf of the Albuquerque Public Schools, we appreciate your support.

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