School closings

GRPS bond issue faces robocall attacks

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – In less than two weeks, voters will choose whether the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ bond issue for school improvement passes. It’s the first to hit the ballot since 2004.

Tuesday night, an automated robocall against this proposed tax surfaced, but GRPS officials said the call is using false information. Wednesday the district fired back.

Americans for Prosperity-Michigan funded the robocalls. Last week, Mike Farage, leader of the political action committee Grand Rapids School Taxpayer Association, said he reached out to AFP for help. On Oct. 1, Farage register the committee with the Kent County Clerk’s elections division.

The automated call runs one minute. This is the first part of the recording:

“On November 3rd, bureaucrats with the Grand Rapids School District want to sneak a huge property tax hike past voters like you. This tax hike will cost the average Grand Rapids homeowner an estimated $4,000 over the life of the bond.”

The call goes on to say higher taxes have not helped students in the past:

“In 2004 they raised taxes by $165 million. Yet graduation rates and reading rates still didn’t improve. Now they want to raise taxes again.”

GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said the calls are a blatant attack on the bond issue that is wrong. “There are no words to say how deeply saddened I am about those robocalls last night," said Neal. "They are misleading."

If passed, the bond would raise $175 million for school improvement, security, and technology in every school, with a focus on GRPS high schools.

Neal said if passed, the bond would cost the average homeowner, based on a $100,000 home, about $8.58 per month. That totals about $2,500 over 25 years, the life of a standard bond.

Farage's numbers differ from Neal's. “The bond yield fluctuates. This could be an astronomical tax increase, realistically," he said. "An awful lot of homes in Grand Rapids are well over $100,000, especially if you look at this morning's selling prices.”

“These are our kids, this is our future. Grand Rapids Public Schools are failing our kids," said Farage. "They're failing the teachers, and they're failing our community, period. This is just a failed administration, period.”

But Neal stands firm that the district's transformation plan is working.

“Our graduation rates are up, our test scores are up. Dual enrollment, attendance, our bond rating, everything we said we’d do we’ve done," she said. "Don’t let these outside people tell us what to do with our kids, because it’s not about taxes, it is not about taxes. It is not about taxes. We need to do the right thing, continue to do the right thing, invest in these children.”

If you are wondering who the “outsiders” are that Neal is referring to, they are the billionaire Koch brothers, who have a track record of throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaigns that don’t line up with their conservative values. The conservative political PAC is now taking on public schools and unions. The Kochs have a history of funding Americans for Prosperity.

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7 comments

  • Paul Brandt

    I work for a service provider the services GRPS. I can tell you first hand that the staff that run these schools are dedicated hard working people that do whatever they can to stretch the value of the dollars in their trust. The funding of GRPS is simply not enough to keep up with aging buildings and infrastructure. I’m one for saving where I can too, but when you look at the condition of the buildings, then look at the precious students inside, it makes me sick that anyone would campaign against a GRPS bond. They need it, the students merit it, and the proud residents of Grand Rapids should rally around the need and pass this bond. Seriously you don’t even need to tour the buildings to realize the great need, a drive by will tell you all you need to know.

  • Bruce

    Precious students ? These are the same kids that rob and steal, chant death to cops and white people…. Let them rot and complain about the size of their welfare checks

    • Can

      Bruce, I am not sure that all the students in GRPS are robbing, stealing, and chanting death towards white cops, to be honest I know for a fact that isn’t happening. All children need to have the resources needed in order to be successful. Please, let’s not talk about how white policemen have mistreated the minority because this bond has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with ensuring that children are being educated to not even remotely think like you.