Delaying vote on vocational issue wise choice

Like most area taxpayers, we’re not sure if Clovis needs a $12.5 million vocational institute for high school students.

We do agree with Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm that voters need more information before they’re asked to make that decision.

Seidenwurm has talked about needing a vocational school since her June 2005 arrival in Clovis. The idea is to offer two-year vocational programs, taught by Clovis Community College instructors, for credits toward high school and college degrees.

She believes the dual credits would inspire more students to pursue college educations.
But plan details — and whether goals can be achieved without spending so much money — are issues that have not been fully debated.

Late last month, Seidenwurm said she planned to ask CMS board members to place the vocational issue on the ballot Jan. 29 — the same time voters decide on a recurring $12 million general obligation bond to fund maintenance and improvements to school buildings and grounds for the next four years.

The recurring GO bond is essential to the district’s ability to maintain facilities and we support that issue as do most taxpayers, based on overwhelming previous elections. Voters in 2000 and 2004 approved the GO bonds by a 4-to-1 count.

The proposed vocational school is not such a no-brainer.

While our community clearly benefits from a better educated workforce, there are plenty of questions about whether taxpayers should be asked to take on an additional burden, especially now.

Our city is still reeling from the negative impact of the near-closure of Cannon Air Force Base. The base has been saved, but the local economy has not recovered from first the scare and now the transition to a new mission, which has temporarily resulted in fewer base personnel.

Also, there are questions about whether separate facilities are even needed. Why can’t the dual-credit classes be held in existing buildings?

We know we’re not the only ones with questions. Seidenwurm said a recent survey of CMS faculty showed 25 percent felt there wasn’t enough information about the proposal to make an informed decision.

If that many teachers have unanswered questions, it’s not surprising the rest of us need more information as well.

To her credit, the superintendent recognized the need for more detailed information before it was too late. She told school board members last week that school officials need to spend more time educating taxpayers about the vocational school before asking their approval.

Smart move.