Tyler Proud, an organization launched last fall, is working to promote the passage of the Tyler ISD bond proposal because it believes it's time to improve school facilities and therefore the students' learning environment.
The organization comprises parents, students, teachers, business owners and community leaders, among others.
Although organization leaders have said they plan to continue working toward TISD's improvement long after the bond election, pass or fail, they are nonetheless working hard for its passage.
"This bond is about facilities," Tyler Proud president Mark Randall said after a news conference last week. "It's about improving teacher and student safety. It's about eliminating the … portable classrooms that our kids in middle school are in.
"It's about affecting the 8,000 students it will ultimately affect. And this, together with improving academics and discipline, makes a better student, a better young adult when they go to college or they go from CTE (career and technical education) to the workforce."
Others who have come out in support of the proposal include state Sen. Kevin Eltife; local higher education leaders; and Mayor Barbara Bass, in her unofficial capacity.
Tyler Proud has four primary reasons for supporting the $160.5 million bond package.
These include no tax increase, creating a career and technology center, improving safety and security, and reducing portables.
The district can support this bond proposal without increasing the existing tax rate because of an expected increase in property values, and the fact that the district will pay off several bond series in the coming years.
"As you can tell, as the values go up and we pay down, we can absorb more debt," Chief Financial Officer Tosha Bjork said.
Regarding the career and technical education center, Tyler Proud leaders view this as a facility that will better prepare high school students for the workforce and college.
Kristen Baldwin, Tyler Proud adviser, said the center would provide more space, better facilities and more efficiency for the district's career and tech programs. She said many students lack a vision for the future and an understanding about why they are in school.
This facility and the programs that would be offered there can help create that, she said. And it also could be an incentive for students to perform well academically.
"If they know that if they do well in their earlier years that by the time they get to be a junior or senior they'll be able to go to the CTE Center, it's like the carrot," Ms. Baldwin said during a Tyler Morning Telegraph editorial board earlier this month. "And it's going to be that short-term vision that will also help them in terms of long-term and career and potentially college path."
Randall and spokesman David Stein have said this facility is something business people are excited about because it can provide a trained or semi-trained workforce for certain jobs.
"This is just not about recruiting companies here and having better facilities to show around from a real estate standpoint," Stein has said. "These are the local businesses understanding how much that this can really impact what they do from now on, it's enormous."
The improved safety and security on the new and renovated campuses is another reason this organization backs the bond.
"The safest schools in TISD are our newest schools," Tyler Proud spokesman Mike Starr has said.
That is because these schools have a single point of entry for visitors that is locked, controlled and monitored throughout the school day, Starr said earlier this month.
These campuses don't have the challenges of those with an open plan where classrooms open to the outside without a controlled perimeter, he has said.
Finally, the bond proposal has the potential to significantly decrease overcrowding on campuses, Tyler Proud leaders have said.
With 164 portable buildings in TISD and 55 of those at the schools included in this bond package, the district would see a significant reduction if this goes through.
Starr said portable buildings provide a substandard learning environment that negatively affects student and teacher morale.
"It's a building," he said of the portable. "It stays dry for the most part. It hopefully is climate controlled although not without extra noise, but it's not an environment that is really worthy of our students or our faculty."
Staff Writer Faith Harper contributed to this report.