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Latest proposal would cost $4.4 million

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Laptops for students part of proposed bond package
The Ellis County Press

MIDLOTHIAN - A proposal to give every student a laptop would cost $4.4 million, according to Midlothian Independent School District officials.

The idea is nothing new.

During former Superintendent Dr. Molly Helmlinger's administration two years ago, the idea to provide students from seventh grade through all four years of high school with a laptop computer came into discussions about a future bond election.

Many thought the proposal was a good one, considering the world's reliance on more efficient technology.

But others, including the notorious 'Concerned Citizens' group, thought the laptops-for-students idea was a waste of more taxpayer money.

'Although it is a great idea and would benefit our students, the committee felt it was more important to focus on necessities,' said MISD public relations director Jana Hathorne, referring to the school board-created Growth Management Committee.

The committee has spent several months going over demographic data and other projections in preparation for a Feb. 7 bond election.

A $99.95 million proposal was trounced in a March election this year, so the committee has been looking for less-expensive ways of meeting the MISD's needs, though it will be slightly less than the last bond. Feb. 7 has been slated for the district's next bond election ($80 million; 13.7-cent tax increase).

Computers are necessary for students, many will agree with that.

But this latest plan, already used in Maine, according to MISD director of technology Kirk Paschall, is one of many 'high-class' proposals to have boiled the blood of many taxpayers.

Consider the following:

• $1,780 for two panel signs; these signs (there are dozens throughout the district) can be seen at the front of each campus and the administration building, and are made of blue metal with white lettering.

• Millions poured into converting L.A. Mills Elementary into an administration building, which included tile being imported from Italy (the country) to spruce up the front foyer.

· Hundreds of thousands put into the new centralized Johnson Controls air conditioning system at the high school; on a visit to MHS in the spring, the classrooms were sweatboxes; teachers this reporter talked to said it was a result of different-blooded teachers (the AC unit was centralized, meaning it's controlled at one spot in the campus).

· Spent thousands to replace a brand new gymnasium floor in the 9/10th Grade Center after a major water/sewer leak was discovered.

The MISD budget is $36 million, bigger than the Ellis County government's budget, and yet we have the highest tax rate ($1.72) in the county of any entity, and one of the highest in the Metroplex.

Of the millions spent to convert buildings, replace high-dollar gym floors, import tile from Europe, or propose giving students a laptop computer, someone could gather that A) taxpayers are being taxed way too much, and B) the million in additional revenue MISD received last year is an example of example 'A.'

Come February 7, this reporter - and two-time MISD school board candidate (lost by 19 votes in May) - will vote against the bond proposal.

It's high time the taxpayers and concerned citizens of the MISD fight back.

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