Voters have approved parts of the largest bond proposal in the Fort Worth Independent School District's history, a $1.5 billion package that largely focuses on the district's aging middle schools.
The district said the proposal will provide for desperately needed capital improvements.
On Tuesday, voters approved Proposition A, which allocates $1.2 billion for the renovation of all the district's middle schools and the construction of one new elementary school, the “Westpark Relief” elementary school in the Ventana neighborhood of Benbrook, and the complete renovation of three elementary campuses. Unofficial results show the proposal had 50.09% of the vote, with 12,342 votes for the bond and 12,300 against.
Proposition B would allocate more than $98 million for the district's auditoriums and Fine Arts facilities. More than 54% voted against the proposal.
Proposition C, which would provide more than $104 million for the construction, acquisition, and equipment of stadiums in the district, lost with more than 66% voting against the proposal.
Proposition D would provide more than $76 million for the renovation of the district's recreational facilities and the replacement of turf at existing athletic stadiums. More than 58% voted against the proposal.
Critics of the billion-dollar proposal questioned the focus on the district's physical infrastructure rather than improving low academic achievement.
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Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner said the proposed improvements would affect teaching and learning in a number of ways.
“The last batch of reliable valid data prior to the pandemic actually showed a strong increase in our academics, and we do know that school facilities do have an impact on student achievement,” Scribner said. “Things like air quality, and lighting, and safe and secure buildings. Having students have pride and a positive self-belief. We think that when students walk into a high-quality building, they feel better about themselves.”
The majority of the district's schools were built before 1960 and a lot has changed since then. Tobi Jackson, president of the FWISD Board of Education, said she was not surprised by the results.
"Many of our trustees voiced our concerns before we called for the bond. Specifically, we wanted more citizen input prior to the bond being called. I think truly, this is a great opportunity for the district. The taxpayers and the voters have certainly called for us to go back to basics and to focus on academics," Jackson said Wednesday. "I believe the voters simply said athletics and fine arts are important, but they’re not as important as getting our buildings up to standard and above."
Jackson said this does not mean the idea of improving fine arts or athletics is off the table, but she said more discussions are needed.
"We look at how long until we host that next bond. Is it a mini-bond and we just look at athletics and fine arts? Do we look larger and look for stadiums as well? Do we look larger and look for auditoriums as well?" she explained.
Jackson also suggested the possibility of future town halls to host the discussions.
"Those don’t cost money. They cost something more precious than money. They cost time and so we will asking the tax payers to come out and share their time with us and their thoughts. I look forward to that. That’s a wonderful opportunity for this board and the district," she said.
The last major bond election in the Fort Worth ISD was in 2017 for $750 million. It was passed by voters with a more than 70% approval rating.
The district has a full breakdown of the $1.5 billion dollar bond proposal on its website.