Post-celebration, focus of Prop S turns to accountability

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By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

Once more, the Mehlville School District  passed a historic ballot measure last week: Proposition S, a $35 million, 12-cent no-tax-rate-increase bond issue, was approved with over 80 percent of the vote.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly six years since Mehlville voters passed another historic ballot measure, Proposition R, a 49-cent operational tax-rate increase. True to its name, Proposition R for “Restore,” Mehlville used those funds to restore budget cuts and retain teachers.

Proposition P of 2000 was not structured as a bond issue since district officials at the time did not believe that more than 57 percent of voters would approve it. Two large operational tax-rate hikes failed between 2000 and 2015, which set the district on a cost-cutting course that eventually led to $8 million in budget cuts in 2015, after which more than 73 percent of voters approved Prop R.

Fast forward to last week’s approval of Prop S, the first true bond issue passed in the district since 1992.

This victory belongs to the many active and involved parents who supported Prop S or served behind the scenes on the campaign committee; voters who recognized that safety is a community-wide issue and not just a school issue; and Superintendent Chris Gaines, who has now overseen two historic ballot measures in his six years in the district.

But will future Mehlville voters, decades from now, be described as making a historic decision? That remains to be seen, and whether or not that happens will be based on how the district approaches Prop S.

As difficult as elections have been, the past has also shown that the more difficult work happens after Election Day. The district has to spend this money wisely, as promised to voters, in order to keep the trust that it earned with Prop R. Parents must stay involved to demand the most responsive and accountable school district possible. The Board of Education has to oversee expenditures and not devolve into an embarrassment like boards from decades ago did.

The true work starts now. “Safe Schools, Safe Kids” is not an easy promise to make, but it’s an important one that the district has to deliver.

After all this time, Mehlville and Oakville voters deserve nothing less.