With 63-percent of voters rejecting a 5-cent tax increase, Midland residents sent a clear message to MISD’s leadership on Saturday: show us reform first.

The 9-percent voter turnout alone showed that Midlanders are paying attention and holding the district accountable. Although seemingly small, 9-percent is actually considered a good turnout for a tax ratification election held on a non-uniform election day. Of course, there’s no doubt it would have been higher if the election was held in November (MISD’s last bond election, which was held in November 2012, produced a 61% voter turnout). Nonetheless, the community has made their voice heard.

Aside from voter turnout, what was surprising, however, was the proportion in which the votes were cast: 63-percent of voters were against the tax increase.

Over the last several months, MISD has publicly embraced the need for reform and subsequently framed a tax increase as a vital component of change. However, the results of Saturday’s election in no way paint a picture of a community that rejects reform. In a September op-ed in the Midland Reporter Telegram, written by Empower Texans, the question of the proverbial chicken and egg was asked. “Plan first then discuss whether a tax increase is truly necessary to foster reform? Or money first, with the faith that good leadership and an effective plan will eventually follow?”

Clearly, residents want to see a plan before discussing the need for more money.

For too long MISD’s performance has fallen short of even mediocre levels and the cohesiveness between teachers, parents, and the administration is severely lacking. In addition, the district is currently without a permanent superintendent and roughly half of the school board will be changing in November. Nonetheless, MISD has embraced the fact that reform is needed. This was demonstrated when interim Superintendent Rod Schroder presented data on MISD’s performance levels at a recent school board meeting.

The fact is, residents have shown that not enough has been done and it appears they want to see some action – reform first – before they write any checks. With a major leadership transition in the works, MISD has a significant opportunity ahead of them. The new leadership would be remiss not to seize this opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the community by kicking “business as usual” to the curb and implementing the substantive reforms voters want, thereby allowing them to restore the trust between the community and district leadership.

Lauren Melear

Lauren Melear leads the West Texas Bureau of Texas Scorecard. When not working, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, as well as cooking, working out, traveling to the hill country, and cheering on the fightin' Texas Aggies.