A year ago our school system reached out to the voters of Miami-Dade County with a request for $1.2 billion to make improvements to our schools in exchange for a promise that the funds from the bond program would be used to enhance the safety of our schools, improve access to technology, provide a dignified teaching and learning environment for school-site employees and students, and would deliver an economic boost to our local economy by creating jobs and business opportunities in construction and related industries.
The result was that our community, led by parents, teachers, business people, and many others, agreed to take us at our word and passed Proposition 222 by nearly 70 percent.
At the time, we made clear that one’s zip code should never be an obstacle to accessing high-quality, academically rigorous, educational programs, and that through the proceeds generated from the bond we would focus on eliminating the digital divide that exists between new schools and some of our much older schools, as well as creating new state of the art learning environments across the district in every neighborhood.
We also committed that every step of the way the process would remain open and transparent, ensuring the public that through careful stewardship of its dollars, projects would be delivered equitably, efficiently, and with full accountability.
Finally, we promised that the dollars raised by the bond program would be reinvested into the Miami-Dade economy, creating over 9,000 direct and indirect jobs, particularly in construction and related industries, over the first three years alone.
A promise made is a promise kept. Every school in the district is slated to receive upgrades as a result of the bond program. Many projects have been advanced, cutting the time for improvements in some cases by up to two years. In fact, we have already launched 69 projects worth $180 million just within this first year, with all design services and contracting work being done by local private firms.
The 21st Century Schools Bond Advisory Committee was established and includes a 29-member panel made up of a cross-section of the community empowered to monitor the performance and program achievements related to the bond program. Further, we are making good on our promise to reinvest in our own community. M-DCPS has contracted with a private program management firm to manage the construction program. This firm has managed some of our community’s largest projects and has over a century’s track record of success.
Finally, the district has implemented a small/micro business policy as well as a local vendor preference policy to ensure that local businesses have every opportunity to participate in the bond program.
We knew that aging school facilities and the lack of access to state-of-the-art technology would have a detrimental impact not only on our students but also on the long term economic development potential of Miami-Dade County. Now, at groundbreaking events that are being held at schools across the community, the excitement on the faces of the students, teachers, parents, and community partners has been a wonderful confirmation that 222 was the right thing to do, for all the right reasons and at the right time.
Miami-Dade County is a wonderfully diverse and culturally vibrant community poised to become one of the world’s premier cities, and we are confident that with the investment made through 222, our schools will be prepared to the lead the way.
To learn more about the bond program, special events like the upcoming groundbreaking for the new Miami-Norland Senior High on Wednesday, and the progress of individual projects, please visit the M-DCPS GOB Capital Projects Dashboard at http://www.dadeschools.net and click on the tab labeled “Bond.”
Alberto M. Carvalho is superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Roberto Martinez is chair of the 21st Century School Bond Advisory Committee.