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The San Marcos local of the Texas State Teachers Association strongly disagrees with the San Marcos Consolidated ISD’s decision to continue holding school board elections in May, at a cost of $100,000 during tough budgetary times. The money would have been better spent on the classrooms and students.

We believe that spending $100,000 during a budgetary crisis to pay for elections is the wrong choice. Classrooms and students, not politics, should be the school board’s first priority.

Had the school board agreed to move the elections to November, the school district would have been spared the $100,000 cost of paying for voting machines. Because of funding problems, the district already has had to cut costs, and many students and staff members are being affected.

The district is seeking waivers to allow elementary school classes to grow larger than the 22-student cap. Keeping classes smaller, providing additional classroom resources, and technology would be a better expenditure of district money.

There were two votes taken during the October 24th meeting. The first vote was for changing the date of the election to November. This vote was supported by the superintendent of SMCISD and failed with a 3-5 vote. The next vote was for the purchase of the voting machines and it passed with a 5-2 vote.

The Teachers Associations in San Marcos are also concerned that this monetary figure may not include the cost of running the elections in regards to staffing costs, advertising, and polling locations.

San Marcos

Crockett Elementary teacher SUSAN SEATON is president of the San Marcos chapter of the Texas State Teachers Association.

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10 thoughts on “Letter: Trustees spend education dollars on politics

  1. I think it’s pretty ridiculous to spend $100,000 for voting machines. The money definitely could have served a better purpose. I think students should be the main priority.

  2. I would suggest the Board doesn’t want to move the election because they are happy with a 2% voter turnout. It allows them to continue to control their fiefdom.

  3. I’m sorry but that is a ridculous amount of money to spend on voting machines at this time. I’d rather employ 2 or three teachers.

  4. The below is the email I sent to John Crowley, Lupe Costilla, David Castillo and Margie Villalpando earlier…

    Dear John, Margie, David and Lupe,

    I, as well as MANY other SMCISD taxpayers, are stunned and OUTRAGED that you voted in favor of what you refer to as a ‘one time expense’! NOTHING in life is a ‘one time expense’ and with that being said it is apparent that there was little thought given to this astronomical expense at the cost of us, THE TAXPAYERS!

    What is the expense of hiring Hays County to ‘officiate’ the entire election and with EACH election? What is the expense of maintaining the equipment? What is the expense of the software updates?

    Margie, with your statement of, “My reason for keeping the elections in May is that a November election would be too political due to the partisan election, and we’d be at the bottom of the ballot.”…are you insinuating that those of us that DO VOTE are not intelligent enough to KNOW whom and what we are voting for? And, am I to assume that you are not up to a political battle in the event it even resulted in one? Give your constituents the benefit of the doubt and know that we are intelligent enough to make intelligent decisions, unlike the unintelligent decision each of you has made.

    John…your online profile reads…. John is interested in improving the educational system for students, while also being an advocate for strong financial decisions and appropriate fiscal spending. How does this expense constitute being an ‘appropriate’ and strong financial decision? Myself (and again many others), consider it a contradiction on all levels.

    In closing, each of you needs to do the right thing and be the bigger person(s) by acknowledging your err. Retract your vote in favor of this significant expenditure. This is an unnecessary expense and the wrong decision for our community and for our schools which you promised to represent OUR best interests, not your own.

  5. This is simple. Do the right thing.

    Bring it back on the agenda at a meeting. Rescind the funding of the election expeditures. Vote to move the election to November.

    Think about our STUDENTS and FORGET about YOURSELF,

    Do the RIGHT thing and do it NOW!

    Keep in mind that school board trustees are paid nothing – no salary, no stipend, no benefits – so this is about ego and selfishness – the desire to be re-elected.

    Please – do the right thing!

  6. I just shake my head at the wasteful spending of the school district. We are in hard economic times right now. There are many children in the school district that have parent’s who have lost their jobs and struggling to provide school supplies, clothes and meals for their children.
    I voted with confidence that John Crowley would be a man of his word and would curb the wasteful spending in the school district. Now I know that he cant keep his word.
    Lupe and Margie are the worst over spenders that could have been elected. Look back at the years when they both were on the school board and see how they have voted. But, this is what we get for voting them back in.
    As far as I am concerned, Margie and Lupe belong at the bottom of the voting list and they should bring John with them.

  7. I am posting a letter I composed to some District 5 and SMCISD constituents regarding the recent vote about keeping the elections in May.

    First I want to say thank you for your correspondence concerning not changing the voting date. I heard from constituents both in favor of changing the date to November and others wanting to keep the election in May. Please note that I looked at the benefits and the costs of both scenarios.
    At the regular board meeting held on Monday October 17th the board was presented with information about costs, number of polling places, equipment for disabled voters, and even the option of using paper ballots instead of voting machines. That night the vote was tabled and the district administration was directed to find the lowest cost option in case a vote was made at the next meeting to leave the election in May.
    At the special called board meeting a budget amendment was made for $103,000, which in my opinion was inaccurate, and the district’s administration failed to perform due diligence in searching for lower cost options and the deadline to order equipment had already past.

    Reasons to move the election in November:
    • No additional equipment cost to the district
    • Higher voter turnout

    Reasons to keep the election in May:
    • To keep the board out of a very partisan election and so the board is not overshadowed during a constitutional, congressional, or presidential election.
    • Some people would not complete the entire ballot or just vote a straight party ticket.
    • That some people that may not be particularly familiar with the candidates may just vote for the first name or because they like the way a name sounds over another.
    • To continue to allow candidates to run elections with little or no outside money donations. May elections would likely require well funded elections which many concerned candidates interested in running for the election may not be capable of doing. (Some San Marcos City Council candidates are raising $ 100,000 for their elections).
    • The original lawsuit brought by the GI forum established single member districts and the election date was in May, not November.
    • To allow motivated school board candidates the opportunity to run an election, get to know voters, and campaign on the issues. Voters have historically elected school board trustees who are passionate about the district and they make the effort to go out and vote in a May election. I have always voted in these elections long before my election.

    I truly wish that the legislature had not made this change and that the district would not be spending money on election equipment. I believe that the true costs will end up being lower then $80,000. We are having ongoing conversations with the district about paper ballots and other ways to reduce these costs even further and also why the board was not adequately informed about the lowest cost options.

    I have been criticized by some on the board of trustees because I question so many budget amendments and transfers and I am often opposed to pulling money from the district’s fund balance because I say budgets are planned and district administrators should be held to live within the approved budgets. Since I have been elected approximately 1 ½ years ago I refused to pass a more than 1 million dollar deficit budget and required the district to find more then a million dollars in cuts for the 2009-2010 budget. I voted to drop the tax rate from $ 1.37 to $ 1.35. I approved a 2010-2011 budget 3 million dollars less than the 2009-2010 budget and with an almost 1 million dollar surplus during a very difficult financial time with significant reductions in state funding. I was instrumental in getting the district to bring in TASB to do a staffing and salary survey to look at how we are staffed and if our pay scale is appropriate and the number of administrators and directors appropriate for a district our size. The board is looking at trimming an additional 1 million dollars from next year’s budget to get back to a balanced budget (and this survey will help with this). In addition, I voted not to pay off the athletic director for $ 86,000 and have him reassigned. I do not support building a football stadium for the district but asked that we work with the University to work with SMCISD so we can continue to use Bobcat Stadium. As we are approaching capacity at both Junior Highs, I have supported utilizing district funds to add capacity at the Junior High and not go to voters for a bond election.

    Other relevant information is that I supported building the career and technology building at the High School and believe that we must realize that a significant number of our students, for whatever reason, do not choose college and the district should provide training in areas such as electronics, building trades, auto mechanics, and culinary arts so students can finish high school and find employment. But perhaps most important is that I and others on this board are holding administration accountable for improved academic performance and increased discipline. I am a believer that many San Marcos graduates who are showing up in college are unfortunately finding that the San Marcos educational system did not challenge them enough for college, thus the district must increase the academic rigor to better prepare our students
    This will be a one time expense; the machines will have a residual value. It is clear that you do not agree with my vote on Monday night and I am sorry that you do not support that vote, but I understand and respect why you feel this way. I do believe I have been a conservative vote on this board and I am conscious of how taxpayer dollars are spent.

    John P. Crowley MS RD LD
    District 5 Trustee

  8. John – thanks for participating in this public discussion. I respect your enthusiasm for your role as trustee.

    On this issue (voting in May vs. Nov) you are totally wrong and you are now simply rationalizing the vote the way you voted.

    It is OK to change your mind. It is OK to admit you did not understand the key issues. It is OK to learn from your mistakes. Please do not under-estimate the public’s capacity to forgive a mistake in judgement – many politicians have made errors in judgement and survived.

    Do the right thing – reconsider this issue at the earliest opportunity – move the election of school board trustees to November – that is what the people want! THE PEOPLE, not the trustees!

    Park your ego on the side and PLEASE consider what is BEST for SMCISD!

  9. correction:

    “On this issue (voting in May vs. Nov) you are totally wrong and you are now simply rationalizing the vote the way you voted.”

    This is my opinion – perhaps the majority of your constituency agrees with you.

    Please refresh our memory: How many votes put you in office? How many of your constituents are you in contact with on a regular basis?

    To your credit – at least you are participating in a public discussion – your other colleagues are MIA (missing in action).

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