Dr. Lawrence S. Feldman, vice chair of the Miami-Dade School Board, addressed members of the Cutler Bay Business Association (CBBA) at their monthly meeting on Oct. 11. He spoke on the topic of “21st Century Schools” and the importance of passing the requested $1.2 billion general obligation bond issue for renovating and updating existing schools and building new ones.
He said that even with recent budget cuts and other problems the district has made progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done. “We have been able to find a way to improve every single school,” Dr. Feldman told his audience, but then pointed out the scope of the problem still remaining.
“We have over 350 schools, out of which only about 55 are new in the last five or six years, so we have about 293 schools that have been there since [President] Eisenhower. That’s about 50 years old.”
He said that the condition of the schools can make the students, teachers, principals, even the whole community feel inferior, and that this can have a ripple effect in the years to come.
“The students are the economic engine of the future,” Dr. Feldman said. “How can we not want them to succeed?”
He said that some of the schools in the area are so old and in need of repairs that it would cost more money to fix all the problems than it would to build new schools.
“In some cases it would cost $2 million less to build a brand new school, and the state has said if you can show us that, we’ll approve it too and you’ll get a new school,” he said.
He said that the bond-funded school improvements would result in the hiring of 9,200 local people in the first three years and more than 18,000 sustainable jobs as the program continues during the course of construction. He said the plan would also provide intern programs for students such as those enrolled in building trade programs at Robert Morgan and other technical schools.
According to Dr. Feldman, the bond referendum would impact homeowners by adding $5 annually per $100,000 of taxable property value in the first year while the previous bond is still in effect, with a projected average of $27 annually per $100,000 taxable property value during the term of the new 30-year bond.
Besides seeking to renovate or upgrade every school and guaranteeing the needed new technology for all students, Dr. Feldman said that the school board wants to promote greater public/private partnership ventures and provide transparency and confidence by having citizen advisory and oversight committees.
Dr. Feldman said that the public can attend meetings when improvements are planned for individual schools and provide input about what they would like to see done that may not be on the list from the school board.
“We’re looking to have more interaction from the people in our community,” he said.