As McAllen residents, we must recognize the tremendous benefit a strong public education system has on our community and that we all bear responsibility to provide the best for our children.

The proposed McAllen Independent School District bond package represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform old, outdated schools into 21st century learning centers.

The plan features a new McAllen High School and a new Memorial High School, while salvaging valuable elements of each, a new campus for Achieve Early College High School and the International Baccalaureate Program, a new Agriculture Facility, a transformation of at least 22 campuses and upgrades to the remaining schools.

If the McAllen ISD Board of Trustees calls for and voters approve the $440 million bond, we could equip all schools with state-of-the-art science labs and the latest technology. We would increase support for the arts and athletics, which would provide the creative and physical outlets necessary to nurture the whole child. We could ensure that every child will have access to the same school amenities at every campus. We would upgrade security. We could expand facilities to offer certifications and licenses that would result in high-paying jobs for students upon graduation. We could attract and retain the best teachers and students with beautiful, functional environments that instill pride and motivation. We would improve energy efficiency in our buildings and save our taxpayers millions of dollars. And we could leap ahead of neighboring school districts that have continuously upgraded and built new schools.

I believe that we can accomplish all of these things by working together as parents, teachers, community members and city leaders.

Residents who do not have children enrolled in McAllen ISD may wonder why they should care.

•    First, studies show that the condition of schools affects student achievement. The proposed bond package would transform our facilities into state-of-the-art learning centers and provide the space and equipment necessary to offer training in automotive, welding, cosmetology and technology. This combination would result in more graduates, more college students and a qualified workforce to serve our community. Well-equipped students mean lower unemployment, which reduces crime and increases meaningful contributions to our city.
•     Second, McAllen residents must consider how outdated schools will decrease our property values. Consider that new industries, such as the UT-RGV School of Medicine and SpaceX, will increase growth. We know that neighborhoods featuring excellent schools with modern facilities create a demand for homes in those areas. Despite our superior teachers and curriculum, the incoming professional workforce will seek the far better educational facilities offered by surrounding cities. As demand for McAllen homes declines, so will its property values.
•     Finally, analysts from the University of Texas-Pan American project that an investment of $440 million, coupled with the school district’s annual budget, would create an estimated 14,800 jobs and in turn stimulate McAllen’s economy by $1.1 billion through construction projects and urban revitalization. Thus, it makes economic sense to invest in our schools. It makes common sense to rely on the McAllen ISD Board of Trustees, along with a citizens’ oversight committee, to make expenditures as wisely and judiciously as after the 2005 bond passed — when all projects were completed on time and under budget.

Opponents may ignore the economic and social benefits of investing in our schools and focus on the increased tax rate to block the proposed package. While no one wants higher taxes, this expense will be miniscule compared with the cost to the community should the McAllen ISD Board of Trustees choose not to call for a bond election or if the measure should fail. Our Facilities Forecast Advisory Committee is presenting this recommendation to the Board of Trustees on Monday night.

Significantly, the projected tax rate is not unprecedented. In 2005, our rate was $1.61 per $100 property valuation. Bond finance counsel has projected that this proposal would raise tax rates to no more than $1.47 per $100 valuation, which would still be 14 cents lower than the 2005 tax rate. Residents age 65 and older qualify for an exemption from any tax increase on their home, so long as they own and occupy it.

The correlation between the monetary investment in education and student achievement is undeniable. Texas has the country’s second-largest economy, but ranks 46th in dollars spent per pupil. Furthermore, McAllen ISD has been operating under a school finance system that has been held to be unconstitutional by a state district court judge. The court found that McAllen ISD and 600 other low-wealth districts are forced to tax at a higher rate but receive less funding per student as compared with wealthier school districts. Unless our state Legislature dramatically restructures school funding and makes education a priority, we are left with only one option for making significant capital improvements: We must take our future into our own hands.

After 18 months of touring 46 facilities, consulting with engineers, architects, builders and experts in school finance, and weighing all possibilities,160 McAllen residents who are part of the Facilities Forecast Advisory Committee came to the following conclusions: (1) we must provide the best learning environment equally to all of our children; (2) the bond package will achieve a dramatic and necessary transformation of our schools that mirrors the quality of the teachers and curriculum; (3) McAllen and its children will suffer if we do nothing, and (4) we cannot wait any longer.