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Guest Column

Vote yes on the Innovation 2020 referendum

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Based on feedback from the Baldwin community, the Baldwin School District has outlined an ambitious but necessary capital improvement initiative known as Innovation 2020. This multi-year project will support critical enhancements to 100-year-old school facilities; library upgrades; new science, technology and mathematics learning spaces in the elementary schools; upgraded athletic and performing arts facilities; and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restrooms in all of the district’s schools.

Although funding will come from multiple sources, completion of the project requires a $158 million capital bond — a multi-year financing plan spread over several years. This capital bond would indeed translate into increased monthly taxes for Baldwin School District residents. Some taxpayers have expressed understandable concern about this increase. Still, a yes vote on March 18th is the right thing to do. Voting yes on the capital project referendum is voting for vital funding to support the education of 21st century students in an increasingly science-, math- and technology-based world.

In a 2015 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Martorell, Stange and McFarlin explained that capital campaigns funded by school bonds do actually lead to tangible improvements in school facilities. Voting yes on the capital project referendum is voting yes to the continued success of our public schools, the center of this community, at a time when Baldwin has received downtown redevelopment funds from the state and a zoning overlay district has been established. A revitalized downtown coupled with modern schools will undoubtedly strengthen the infrastructure of the Baldwin community. Strong schools help make Baldwin a great place to live, raise a family, and/or start a business.

Voting yes on the capital project referendum is voting to protect the investment of Baldwin homeowners. Research from economics journals such as the Journal of Real Estate Research, the Journal of Housing Economics, and the Oxford Review of Economic Policy has repeatedly shown that high-quality public schools are related to quantifiable increases in property value in the district.

In the 2010 Quarterly Journal of Economics, authors Stephanie Cellini, Fernando Ferreira and Jesse Rothstein explained that school facilities are one of the most important public infrastructure investments. In specifically examining facility improvements financed through local bonds, they found that passage of a bond measure caused home prices in a district to rise by about 6 percent, and that this effect persisted for at least a decade. School spending raises property values (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2018). Good schools provide stability for a community, and that's positive for the property values of everyone who lives nearby. Additionally, the National Bureau of Economic Research (2018), in examining school spending across a range of districts and counties, found no evidence of net overspending or inefficient spending of public funds by public school districts.

Lastly, although air conditioning may seem like a luxury, classroom temperature and humidity are actually critical factors in student achievement. In a study of standardized test scores from the entire United States, Roach and Whitney (2019) found that rising average temperatures harm student learning. In a 2019 National Bureau of Economic Research article entitled “Heat and Learning,” the authors showed that elevated classroom temperatures could impair decision-making and reduce the effectiveness of instruction. To meet current student and faculty needs, the district has been using window AC units, which are notoriously inefficient. Energy efficient central air conditioning is the smarter and cheaper choice in the long run.

As an educational psychology doctoral candidate and educator, a Baldwin Civic Association board member and a graduate of the Baldwin School district, I will be voting yes on March 18th for the continued success of the Baldwin community, my Baldwin community. Delaying this to some future time would most likely mean increased interest rates and increased project costs. Vote yes on March 18th for the capital project referendum and for the future of beautiful Baldwin.