Pasco Pride is a phrase — a rallying cry — that has been around for decades. The meaning has changed slightly from one decade to the next, just as the city itself has.
Thirty years ago, when Pasco was the third largest of the original Tri-Cities, the tone was a bit defiant — not in an insulting way but as a presumptive equal among the three cities. It was a reminder that Pasco is an historic town, a railroad complex, a transportation hub, a farming community with productive soil, plenty of water and lots of sunshine.
Twenty years ago, Pasco was growing at a pace that was attracting national attention. New houses were blossoming west of the old city limits. Road 68 was being eyed as a new development site. The port was growing, and new buildings were going up at Columbia Basin College.
Public school enrollment was at an all-time high. Already crowded buildings were being expanded, portables brought in and construction bond issues proposed.
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Ten years ago, the new Pasco was booming. No longer in third place in the Tri-Cities population count, Pasco had passed Richland. Its population had more than doubled.
And that growth has not slowed.
Pasco School District citizens know that to sustain this growth they are going to have to make continuing investments in their schools.
That is partly why the school bond measure proposed last February failed. School officials sought $69.5 million for new school construction and repairs but opposition came from — among others — people who felt the plan wasn’t comprehensive enough.
Today Pasco schools are asking for the biggest bond ever — $99.5 million. It’s a big bill.
But that request was determined after meeting with parents and community leaders who said Pasco school officials needed to have vision and plan farther ahead – so this request includes money for a new middle school that was not in the previous proposal.
Pasco is a big town — predicted in the next couple of years to pass Kennewick and become the largest city in the area. It is going to need more police, more firefighters, more architects, lawyers, plumbers, engineers, cooks, electricians, secretaries, clerks, bus drivers, computer experts — the list is endless.
All these people will need to have come through a rigorous training process, a civilizing influence so that we all can function within reasonable expectations for mutual understanding in our community.
It is not the duty of parents alone to pay for their children’s public education. We must all pay the bill. We are educating a society.
We urge voters not to look at this bond issue as a list of things the district wants. No. It is a list of what our students need but do not have available. This is a fix, not a spending spree.
Here’s where much of the money will go:
▪ The School Board expects the number of students in the system to grow from 12,300 in 2007 to nearly 17,400 last year and add about 3,500 more students by 2017.
▪ Shifting sixth-grade students out of the elementary schools and into the middle schools.
▪ Rebuilding Stevens Middle School for $22 million and adding a fourth middle school for $39 million. This expansion of the middle schools will absorb the sixth graders leaving the high schools.
▪ Building two new elementary schools.
▪ Construct school bus maintenance bays and additional transportation facilities.
▪ Add safety and security updates at 15 schools.
▪ Replace the roofs of two schools.
▪ Buy land for future school sites.
There is organized opposition to the school bond, headed by Roger Lenk, who advocates for more efficiency in government. He believes the Pasco board should permanently eliminate the current “excess” school levy for 2018 so taxpayers are not doubly burdened. Thanks to the McCleary lawsuit, more state money is expected to replace local levy money for basic education needs, but the legislative plan has still not been approved by the Washington State Supreme Court.
Construction plans need to happen now if the school district is going to keep up with the anticipated growth.
So, our judgment is that the bond is big but not wasteful. We feel that the future of the Tri-Cities, not just Pasco, is built on the foundation that we support our schools and want as educated a population as we can possibly have.
It’s a matter of Pasco Pride — no matter how you define it.
The Tri-City Herald urges Pasco voters to pass this needed bond.