For the past few months a "brainstorm" has been brewing to create a Pleasant Prairie School District but some recent developments have taken this notion from the realm of "brainstorm" to an idea worthy of serious study.
The initial attraction of a village school district was tax equity. You may recall the county-wide tax equity study which suggested that municipalities pay more to the county than they get back. No such study was ever done, though, to determine whether village taxpayers are getting their money's worth from the Kenosha Unified School District.
What moved this idea up the ladder was recent news that the school board literally borrowed money to put it in risky investments which could cost district taxpayers $8 million to avoid defaulting on nearly $29 million. That's serious stuff and, according to some financial experts, a risk that was, at a minimum, improperly assessed.
Frankly, I know many municipal and county treasurers who take pride -- and political advantage -- by investing taxpayer funds in safe, short-term vehicles to raise some extra cash from interest income. There are two operative concepts here: safe and short-term.
But complex, risky financial wheeling-and-dealing isn't exactly the best stewardship of taxpayer money and Kenosha Unified's fiscal management isn't the only thing under scrutiny. Add to it dropout rates, test scores, minority achievement and a few other problems and there's reason for village parents to wonder if there's a better way.
As this notion gets fleshed out, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn't just about money. Village residents aren't just taxed more than our fair share but are also represented less. Further, the opportunity to build a winning school district from scratch -- one that would be less bureaucratic and more responsive to parents and voters -- could be enticing. And an outstanding school district could attract additional tax base.
On top of that, this is an idea which is being embraced by many factions in the village (which shows we don't disagree with each other on everything).
Am I ready to say, "Go for it!" Not quite. But it's time for this to go from "brainstorm" to serious study.
Perhaps the legal and financial obstracles would be insurmountable but we won't know without a blue-ribbon study. Even if the idea doesn't get off the ground, it might just make the school board and administrator take the village more seriously.
I suggest that the best and brightest talent in the village be gathered to form a committee to give the feasability of a Pleasant Prairie district a thorough examination. The time is now.