While it appears the measure won the popular vote, Proposition SPS did not pass after failing to receive the required four-sevenths majority Tuesday.
Springfield Public Schools was seeking approval of a $189 million bond to move forward with phase 1 of its Facility Master Plan. But needing 57.1 percent to pass, the measure fell more than 6 points short. With 97 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, only 50.99 percent of voters had said “yes” to the proposal.
SPS Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann declined to call the measure a failure, noting the results indicated “a majority of our voters saw the need.”
“We may need to think about messaging a little bit better," he told KSMU late Tuesday from the Gillioz Theatre Gallery. "This was the biggest issue that we’ve ever offered to the voters so I think there may have been a little sticker shock with this. So we may have to think about reshaping and how we come back and when we come back.”
Proposition SPS asked voters to approve a 24-cent increase to its debt-service levy, to be phased in over two years (12 cents in 2017 and 12 cents in 2018). Over the full 12-year plan, four elementary schools would have closed: Campbell, Bowerman, Delaware and York, with students moved to surrounding facilities.
The measure was formally opposed by the Save R-12 Committee, which had concerns with the future of vacant school buildings and the impact it would have on the children and families living in those neighborhoods.
Virgil Hill, the committee’s chair and principal spokesperson, said Tuesday, "That kind of public disinvestment leads inexorably to private disinvestment, and to the deterioration of those particular communities, most of which are located in high poverty areas. So that would have exacerbated the existing problems that those communities face.”
While SPS said its goal was to ensure that sites with no district purpose will be repurposed in a positive way, there was no clear plan in place. Jungmann acknowledged that’s a question the district will have to reflect on.
“See what questions we can answer – there are some you just can’t ever answer until you have the resources – but we’ll have to put that list together, see what we can answer and decide how to put our best foot forward,” said Jungmann.
Hill notes that his group favors small schools and classes paired with rigorous curriculum for the populations most in need.
“They’re hard primarily because their difficult politically, but they’re the right thing to do, and what we’ve said throughout this is there are a great number of things that are easy. This business of building buildings is easy. The things we advocate are hard, but proven to succeed.”
Springfield Public Schools is the largest district in Missouri with over 25,000 students across 52 buildings.
As of early Wednesday, with just under 98 percent of precincts reporting, 14,013 people had said “yes” to Proposition SPS while 13,468 said no.
The Greene County Clerk’s office said 18.62 of registered voters cast a ballot Tuesday.