The Journal Times has a short story based on the agenda for next Monday's Racine Unified school board meeting: "The board will discuss the possibility of getting a referendum on the April ballot ... The board will have roughly a month to adopt a resolution by a state-imposed deadline of Feb. 16," reporter Paul Sloth wrote.
You might think seriously about this potential referendum for building maintenance funds ... unless you read the paper's website.
The story was posted on the internet Wednesday at 5:23 p.m. By 5:24 -- yes, it took a whole minute! -- the JT's bloggers started weighing in. "Let me be the first to say no," said "DropZoneSurplusNGuns."
At 5:39, "Winger" wrote: "Ummm... nope." "RWWackoStu," "Cartman" and "Head Shot" all wrote variations of: "NO NO NO, Vote No and Vote often."
There were 13 responses in the next four hours, all but one negative.
The one proponent, "Farm&FleetRapper," pointed out: "These buildings are from Lincoln's administration. What do you want them to do? At my child's school, stairs are falling, ceilings collapsing, mold everywhere... The foundation is crumbling to the point where water leaks like a river in the basement classrooms. Paint is chipping everywhere (lead)... Dripping faucets. Doors are so warped, snow comes in between the door and the door jamb."
His/her plea fell on deaf ears, drowned out by references to former Supt. Tom Hicks, the contract with the Public Business Consulting Group, PBCG co-owner Nick Alioto, the incomplete investigation of that contract, and so on.
Does blogosphere venom mean anything? Unfortunately, yes. Regardless what anyone thinks about anonymous bloggers, Unified is in that awful space where everything it does is met by a negative knee-jerk reaction. The board realized this last May, when it canceled an earlier referendum, and it obviously is hoping that the passage of time has provided healing. Alas, no; the PBCG sore is still an open wound. And the news this week that Unified's chief academic officer Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard -- on the job for barely a year -- has applied for the superintendent's post in Madison, doesn't help either.
Is there anything Unified can do to get past this in the short term? There had better be ... or there won't be any long-term.
Nor is it just the blogosphere that bad-mouths the district's finances. Rep. Robin Vos, R-63rd Assembly District, told the Downtown Racine Rotary Club Wednesday that "Unified used to say it was underfunded, but now it's at the median" (in per pupil spending) of all districts. Vos reminded his audience that he proposed extending school choice and vouchers into Racine County, and that his arch-enemy on that issue, Sen. John Lehman, D-21st Senate District, (they have an "over my dead body" relationship) is supported by the teachers' union.
Vos is not sympathetic to calls for more money anyway, having said during the last campaign: "Spending more money on Wisconsin schools isn't necessarily the answer." And maybe it isn't necessarily, although logic would seem to indicate that fewer teachers, bigger classes, fewer librarians, fewer music, art and language courses and hundred-year-old leaky school buildings might, at some point -- we're not necessarily near that point, of course -- prove self-defeating.
Maybe if we close our eyes and click our heels together three times, Glinda the Good Witch will wave her magic wand and our schools will shed their old and wrinkled skin, textbooks will regenerate, computer labs will sprout and ...