The Zionsville Yes and the Zionsville Taxpayers for Responsible Education political action committees are back in action, hoping to educate the community on the upcoming referendum question.
Zionsville resident Debbie Ungar decided to volunteer for Zionsville Yes and educate voters on the referendum.
“We really feel it’s our obligation that every voter knows the ramifications crowded classrooms have on the community,” Ungar said. “This referendum is about cutting down classes and protecting home values.”
Michael Beres, a volunteer for ZTRE, said their group wants to serve as a fact-checker.
“We want to serve as a watch dog,” Beres said. “We are going to hold the (school) board accountable for their actions and gather information to check everything and make sure they’re not putting a spin on it. Our job is to present facts and not put a spin on anything.”
Mary Reid, a volunteer for the Zionsville Yes PAC, said there is a big difference between this referendum and the one proposed in 2010.
“This referendum is responsive to the last referendum,” she said. “It’s a shorter time frame and less amount. It’s all about reducing class sizes. Crowded classrooms are something that everyone can understand.”
Reid said the group has been relentlessly educating community members and answering questions people have. She says the group wants voters to know that this time the money will directly go to reducing classroom sizes.
“The previous argument (against the referendum) was that there wouldn’t be much of an impact on teacher cuts or program funding,” she said. “We are finding that people are receptive. We’ve seen the impact (the failed referendum) has had on the schools. We’re not talking about projections now; we’re talking about reality.”
Beres, however, contends the school board made teacher cuts after the failed referendum to get an emotional response from parents.
“They wanted to prove there would be cuts,” he said. “If people see teaching jobs in jeopardy, there’s an emotional response.”
Beres said he thinks the school board could still do more to reduce the budget.
“There is a financial problem; nobody is denying that,” he said. “Personally, I feel that if they did everything possible, I’d vote yes. I feel, personally, that if the school board was being run frugally, there would be no ZTRE.”
Beres said the Indiana State Board of Education created a checklist for schools to increase savings.
“Our broad position would be that the state requested every school system to look at their cost structure, and we feel they didn’t address everything on it,” he said. “They’ve addressed some of the things, but they haven’t really gotten into the nuts and bolts of it.”
Kathy Fon, a volunteer with ZTRE, said if the school board would have followed everything on the checklist, they would not have needed to cut teachers.
On the other hand, Reid believes the referendum is the only solution to ZCS funding problems.
“A referendum is a rare opportunity to direct where your tax dollar goes,” she said. “Instead of it going to the state level, you have the opportunity to say my school system is worth this. This is a Zionsville problem that needs a Zionsville solution, and we are the solution to the problem.”
Beres said ZTRE is trying to gather all of its information.
“We are really in a defensive position here,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues and we have to do some fact-checking. We want to back up all of our statements with facts. As we review each specific area, we will put the information out there.”