In 1955, there was no Google, no cell phones, and no Internet. India and China certainly were not emerging global economic powerhouses. In 1955, the population of Miami-Dade County was less than 600,000 and about 40 percent of the school buildings in Miami-Dade today were already built.
Clearly, the world of 2012 is a far different place and the education we provide must keep pace if our children and community are to be able to compete in the global arena. The proceeds from the school construction bond referendum will provide the means to deliver on this obligation.
Safety and security will always be a top priority in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and they are a large part of the reason why ballot question 222 asks voters to approve the bond referendum on Nov. 6. The funds from the bond will be used to enhance the safety of our schools, improve access to technology, provide a proper teaching and learning environment for school-site employees and students, and deliver an economic boost to our local economy by creating jobs and business opportunities in construction and related industries. Through careful stewardship we will be able to achieve all of these goals while minimizing the burden to the taxpayer.
Where students are concerned, we believe that one’s ZIP code must not be an obstacle to accessing high-quality, academically rigorous, educational programs. Everyone agrees that the environment where students learn deeply impacts how they learn. Our singular goal is improving student achievement, and bonds will help by eliminating the digital divide that exists between new schools and some of our much older schools.
The referendum is being placed before voters this year because interest rates are at all-time lows, which benefits borrowing now. Additionally, our community has been devastated by several years of the worst economy we have witnessed in our lifetimes. The bond will create more than 9,200 jobs in just the first three years, with more than 18,000 new sustainable jobs expected throughout the course of construction, and all work will be accomplished through private/public partnerships.
Every school will receive improvements, with the most critical needs addressed first. These projects will be rolled out within the first year, and will be delivered on time and on budget. A detailed listing of projects has been developed and is available at bondsforschools.dadeschools.net
The School Board and the administration have restored transparency and trust to our school system. We are establishing a 21st Century Schools’ Bond Advisory Committee composed of citizens representing each School Board member’s district, the PTA/PTSA, governmental entities, and business and community organizations, such as NAACP/NAN and SALAD. This committee will monitor, review, make recommendations, and inform the public on the planning, progress and implementation of the bond program. The majority of voting members are external to the school system, and they will ensure that a promise made is a promise kept.
In addition, an Audit and Budget Advisory Committee independently maintains a sharp eye on district expenditures. The School Site Planning and Construction Committee reviews the district’s five-year plan and evaluates staff needed to accomplish the work at hand. Strict lobbyist registration requirements are in place, a cone of silence ensures that bidding procedures are free of influence, and an inspector general is available when needed.
As one of the largest entities in the county, the school district has a responsibility to provide equitable opportunities for all vendors to compete for our business. M-DCPS is committed to developing and strengthening local, small, and minority and women-owned businesses, as they are an integral component of the economic stability and long-term prosperity of the community. As such, we have implemented a number of procurement policies and initiatives designed to promote equitable participation in the competitive procurement of goods and services in support of Miami-Dade’s overall economic development with the assurance that local dollars will benefit our local economy.
We have transformed our business practices, cut administrative positions and expenditures in half, delivered a balanced budget each year, reduced school taxes, steadily increased reserves, and realigned resources with the goal of improving student achievement. Now our schools are in need of renovation and our students are in need of upgraded technology in order to prepare them for success in the highly competitive 21st Century global marketplace, and we as a community have an obligation to provide for our children. This bond referendum acknowledges that moral imperative.
Alberto Carvalho is superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.