EAST LANSING — East Lansing resident Joe Borgstrom and his wife have created a Facebook page, “Vote NO on ELPS Bond 2017” dedicated to defeating the $93 million East Lansing Public Schools bond issue.
“Having seen some friends interact on the ‘Yes’ Facebook page and the way they were kind of treated by some of the bond community members in the comments … We just said, ‘you know what? We are going to have a place where we can talk about this’,” said Borgstrom.
Borgstrom, the father of two kids who attend ELPS, said he talked to a number of friends, neighbors and people throughout the community before creating the opposing Facebook page.
People had a feeling the bond didn’t strike them the right way, Borgstrom said.
“There is no one that is actively against it … And I even hate saying that word ‘against it’ because we support our schools and we love a lot of what the bond is proposing,” said Borgstrom. “But not all of it and it’s a hard argument to make that you like 80 percent of something but oppose it and that’s the situation that we’re in.”
In August 2016, Board of Education had arranged for the Community Bond Committee to review the district’s six elementary school buildings, including the Red Cedar Elementary School which closed after a controversial vote in November 2012.
“We have zero doubt of the need for upgraded school facilities. Our kids have both been in Pinecrest and Whitehills and we get it, we see that these schools need upgraded,” said Borgstrom. “But part of the challenge that we have with the way that the plans have been presented thus far has been the rollout of six elementary schools.”
During reconstruction of the elementary schools, Red Cedar Elementary School will become a swing school for students.
“Not too long ago we went through a process where they went from six to five and they had to redistrict everybody and our kids were caught up in that,” said Borgstrom.
At 6 p.m. on Feb. 22, East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows met with the Council of Neighborhood Presidents to discuss what is going on in each neighborhood. Following the meeting, Meadows discussed issues with the ELPS bond.
“I know there are issues involving sort of the nuts and bolts of providing education to a diverse student population. I know there are people who don’t like the number of school of choice children that we have within the school district,” said Meadows. “But frankly that doesn’t bother me.”
One reason is the major concerns with the large amount of money being spent on rebuilding new schools is one of the reasons East Lansing residents oppose the $93 million bond.
“It really comes down to, one we feel like there’s this chase to reopen Red Cedar but two, in order to do that they have to take on a number of schools of choice students,” said Borgstrom. “As taxpayers we get a little concerned about the number of students that we’re essentially subsidizing to come to East Lansing schools.” Borgstrom said.
School of choice is not something that Meadows would have supported legislatively. However, he said, it’s here and it’s not going anyway.
“The fact that these students bring money with them but don’t necessarily pay the taxes to build these new schools, that’s not important to me,” said Meadows. “What is important to me is having these new schools for the students who do live in the district.”
The first $9 million of the bond is going toward the renovations of Red Cedar Elementary School, said Borgstrom.
“For a year and half you’re going to have kids at a different school, which again, if you’re building all new elementary schools we have very little issue with the idea of building five elementary schools,” said Borgstrom.
“The last thing we want to see is the community spend $94 million and have to close one or two schools because the enrollment doesn’t justify it or worst yet we have to take on so many schools of choice that we essentially erode the public school model.” Borgstrom said.
Pat Wolf, president of Tamarisk neighborhood, had a meeting with his neighborhood a week ago discussing the ELPS bond as well.
“From our perspective the cost is maybe $130 or maybe a $150,” said Wolf discussing the property tax charge per year with the ELPS bond. “Because the average home pricing in our neighborhood is only about $175,000.”
However, those in the community still raised concerned whether the bond is the right path.
“The notion of, it sounds like a lot, how did they arrive at that amount and I want to know more,” said Wolf. “The question is always going to be, how many of those people are actually going to go vote?”
Election day for the ELPS bond will be Tuesday, May 2, Polls will be open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Here is the link to “Vote NO on ELPS Bond 2017″. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=vote%20no%20on%20elps%20bond%202017