People are turning out in large numbers today to vote on a Christina School District referendum that would raise $25 million over three years for the struggling school system.
This is the second attempt to pass a referendum proposal, which would restore $10 million in budget cuts and go to major renovations at several schools.
The school district says the proposed tax increase will address critical maintenance and facilities improvement needs, and save programs slated to be cut without the funding — such as the Chinese immersion program and most extracurricular activities, including varsity sports, orchestra, and marching band.
The separate operating and capital improvements referenda would generate $25 million over three years, costing taxpayers an average of $290 a year. Polls are open until 8 pm tonight.
Newark real estate broker and former city councilman Todd Ruckle says he “coming out of retirement” to run for Senate District 9 to “fix the district” and address what he says is a failing school system. Ruckle opposes the referendum and says there are many who agree with him that the school district has not demonstrated that it will use new funds wisely.
Ruckle says the Christina School District is in “dead last place.” “This is a waste of money. It’s not the teachers. But the school district struggles with proficiency in English and math, and there are better ways to produce positive outcomes,” says Ruckle.
Ruckle has come up with a blueprint for the Christina School District which includes consolidating schools and developing a community campus concept — a complex of buildings that are all interlinked. Government buildings and a police station would be situated on each campus, and schools could be utilized at night by Del-Tech and other continuing education programs. A dining hall would serve three meals a day and there would be multiple gymnasiums and athletic fields that would be shared with the community.
Ruckle says the exodus away from the Christina School District will continue next year, when another 800 students will move over to the Newark Charter schools. He says that will put additional pressure on schools that remain open but are underutilized.
“The district needs to provide a plan where the schools would open at night for complete public use where the taxpayer has access to some benefit to their tax dollars,” he says.
Ruckle’s plan would require multiple revenue streams and potentially cost billions. But he says governments can get 100-year bonds at a rate of almost zero percent and that taxes would not have to increase.