Ryan: $800 Million Bonds Vs. Crumbing Schools









World leaders recently warned that errors of the past should not condemn the next generation to a reflexive policy of inaction and indifference.

Today, every parent with children in Broward public schools knows we have infrastructure, technology, and security challenges in many of our schools. On the other hand, some say we have a competing crisis of trust and faith.


Quality Public Education is a Constitutional Right


Fully-funded, free public education is guaranteed by Article IX, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution, which reads in part:

The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.

Can teachers accomplish and students achieve their best within a compromised educational infrastructure?


Aging Schools: Tallahassee Says Find Capital Dollars Elsewhere


The School District (“District”) reports 40% of school buildings are over 25 years old, and the average age is 27 years old.

A “Needs Assessment” identified $3,000,000,000 in capital needs including the replacement and repair of antiquated and inefficient climate control systems; replacing aging playground equipment; increasing school safety and security surrounding the school envelope; modernizing technology improvements to allow the next generation to compete worldwide; and other structural repairs and renovations to address aging schools.

Since 2008, Tallahassee has cut the District’s available capital budget by almost two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000). So, the District is asking voters to consider approving a bond referendum, branded as “SMART” bonds. The District says if this bond referendum passes, a homeowner will pay less in capital outlay commitment than in 2007.

Can anyone who has worked or volunteered in a school say renovation and technology improvements are unnecessary?


Why Should I Care About Public Schools?


Even those without children in public schools recognize the economic benefits of quality public schools when competing to retain or attract new residents and businesses. Strong public schools are one barometer of an attractive community, providing an incentive for people to invest, work, play and retire in our communities.

What difference would this Bond make for schools in your community? In Sunrise, the bond capital dollars would result in over $53,000,000 in improvements to schools directly impacting Sunrise students and families. Many other municipalities have similar level of improvements. How do I reflexively say “no” to those improvements?


Can’t the School Board Just Be More Efficient?


The District reports it has worked to reduce expenses and increase operational efficiencies, allowing $35,000,000 to be reinvested back into classrooms. Operational efficiencies must continue aggressively. Unfortunately, those savings cannot legally translate to the capital budget.


But, the School Board Has Been Criticized for Facility Mismanagement


Can we trust the dollars will be used wisely, as promised and where needed most? Will there be accountability?

We must demand that the School Board establish, without equivocation, a fully supported, meaningful, competent, robust and sustained oversight body with complete and uncompromised authority:

  • to hold fully accountable contractors, employees and management for dollars spent, any potential cost overruns and all change orders requested;
  • to ensure the dollars are spent in accordance with the Needs Assessment;
  • to confirm the dollars are being spent where needed and as part a validated facility strategy countywide; and
  • to guarantee the progress of projects is timely and fully transparent.

Some have suggested the School Board could also voluntarily agree to allow the Office of Inspector General play a role in watching the spending practices and decisions.

What Point Does Voting “No” Prove?


Some will vote “no” just because they have other complaints involving the District. Some will vote “no” automatically because this is a new taxpayer commitment. Some will vote “no” vote believing that will punish the bureaucrats, electeds, administrators or contractors who may have been responsible for the errors of the past. Some will threaten a “no” vote campaign unless they obtain a concession involving their own parochial educational issue.

In reality, if the School Board implements meaningful trust-building and oversight strategies, a “no” vote condemns the next generation of developing young minds to an educational environment indisputably in need of improvements and renovations.

Impending climate change calamity caused by adults. Pervasive and intractable international violence. The onslaught of deadly diseases worldwide.

Our children need all the tools we can give them to face the future.

Now, more than ever, the School Board must guarantee accountability.  In turn, we must labor to provide the next generation the best opportunity to change our world for the better.


(Michael Ryan asked he be described as a father, resident and former PTA president, and a graduate of Broward Public Schools for the purposes of this post.)


24 Responses to “Ryan: $800 Million Bonds Vs. Crumbing Schools”

  1. Nora Chietj says:

    Thank you Mayor Ryan. I am proud to be a principal working for the Broward County Public Schools and lucky enough to be working in the City of Sunrise.

  2. Dan Lewis says:

    Beginning with the admonition that we “should not condemn the next generation to a reflexive policy of inaction and indifference”, my good friend Mike Ryan minimizes the most important lessons of all in his article “$800 Million Bonds Vs. Crumbling Schools” and while well meaning, completely misses the point.

    While thoughtful people are certainly willing to pay for a solution, they generally are not willing to through money at a problem. Thus, the devil and the point is in the details. Since most of the information which serves as the basis of the Bond justification comes from the school board and more particularly from its administration itself, certainly and historically a bias and self-serving source, one must ask “can we trust what they are saying?”. Mr. Ryan asks us to disregard the past behavior of the school board and simply take a leap of faith as to the school boards bond justifications. This would be difficult, if not impossible for a reasonably informed voter based on even the recent behavior of the School system. It is the same argument in favor of giving an alcoholic outside a bar money for dinner because the alcoholic is hungry. Under these circumstances, the likelihood of the alcoholic eating is as remote as the school system being good stewards of $800 million in our tax monies.

    Mr. Ryan strongly argues for accountability – yet the School System ducks accountability and transparency at every turn. When they had an opportunity to be bound by the county’s ethic code, it was blocked. When they had an opportunity to allow the Inspector General access and jurisdiction for some modicum of oversight – they refused. Not surprisingly, the oversight committee over the projected bond proceeds is “to be announced”. For at least the last decade, the school board has violated both the letter and the spirit of the so-called CCC federal litigation settlement which proscribed equality in capital expenditures, resources and maintenance of all schools and provided through the diversity committee a method to do annual surveys of inequities which needed to be addressed. Finally and notably, the superintendent is on tape saying that the school system is not obligated for past commitments but will be for their current promises. While I am sure that they mean what they now say, as an organization – the school system is still the hungry alcoholic outside the bar.

    As to the details of their plan, once you get past the many mathematical errors – it too is horribly flawed beginning with the assessment process through the transparent effort to buy votes and minimize opposition including giving $12 million dollars to charter schools for technology. Sounds good – but who finances technology that has a five-year life with a 30 year bond or for that matter, $208+ million for air-conditioning improvements with a 20 year life, again with a 30 year bond. It simply is a formula for financial disaster and fundamentally violates the principal of paying as you go (or use the asset) to place an incredible burden on our future tax payers.

    I do not quarrel with Mr. Ryan that we need to address the needs of our public schools, but throwing money at the problem is not the answer. The first step is not to approve the bonds, but to put the school system on probation with some strict rules including the county’s ethics code, the inspector general. The second step is to address the transparency problems with the school system. We cannot help solve the problems with our school system if there is deception in what the system is doing.

    Our children need good parents, and our school system needs strong oversight. Then maybe we can talk about increasing the system’s allowance from the taxpayers.

  3. Juliet Hibbs says:

    as a graduate, parent and teacher in Broward schools, I understand the need, but when they play games with money and use smoke and mirrors CLAIMING they protect children and do what is best, how can I begin to believe they will use this money effectively? I can Not! Student safety is paramount and if this can be allowed


    They will only here NO to the BOND from me! They do for themselves and NOT the children! They waste so much every year!

  4. carolina says:

    If this bond request “goes down”, as it very well may, it is not because we do not want the best for our students & teachers; it will be due to a lack of trust we have in our current school superintendent & “most” of the school board members.

  5. Sam The Sham says:


    With your words: “We must demand that the School Board establish, without equivocation, a fully supported, meaningful, competent, robust and sustained oversight body with complete and uncompromised authority”
    You admit that there is a huge trust and accountability problem with the school board. But nobody at the school board is making any noise about establishing or submitting to any such oversight. You want to give them an open $800 million checkbook with NO oversight but hope that in the future they will do a better job than they have done in the past.


    They have proven to be untrustworthy and corrupt. You acknowledge this and still want to give them $800 million now and up to $3 billion later. You are either insane to trust them or corrupt yourself.

    Tell the school board to clean up their act and demonstrate to the electorate they are worthy to educate our kids first. Then and only then would we consider giving them any more money.

  6. truth says:

    Shocker. The city that never saw a development that needed modifications or community input going to bat for developers.

  7. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Oh my how many times have heard the same remedies for the corruption, incompetence and waste? And every time we fall for it, Lucy takes the ball away.

    The district is incorrigible. Just look back at the information Buddy has shared. Not what happened under the prior administration, but what has happened since Mr. Runcie took the position.

    He’s been spending tax dollars to sell the bond. Not give information, but sell it. He hired a company to do it, and none of the board members recall having voted on it. Imagine that!

    His staff goes with him during the work day to meet with groups and ask them to support the bond.

    He kept the same people in place in the Facilities Dept. that were part of the previous disasters. I met with him when he came on board and strongly advised him to clean house. He wouldn’t do it.

    Moreover, he allowed Facilities staff to give the developer of Norcrest what he wanted, against the advice of the district’s Chief Auditor. The same Facilities bunch that’s been there. They learned well from previous Deputies and the Sup’t.s and board that allowed it all to happen.

    The latest: The district is spending $60K and counting on a floor for a portable that’s 20 years old and set to be removed. Bob Norman exposed this one.

    If you really want to do something for the district, vote NO on the bonds and insist that the state put in an oversight committee and an IG to clean up the mess.

    Otherwise, you’re simply enabling the corruption, incompetence and mismanagement.

  8. LCG says:

    I agree the schools need the money. My biggest concern is how quickly the needs assessment was done and then there were no meetings with various groups to determine if the numbers were correct. As one of the comments from another article in this section, the writer points out many mistakes at Douglas High School. I would feel much better about the money if there was a real oversight committee which is allowed to do what you listed. As it stands now, the committee will meet 4 times a year with no power. If the oversight committee was composed of parents, volunteers, and other adults not associated with Broward Schools I would feel better about the vote. Voting “NO” helps no one but does voting “YES” ensure the money will be spent for the children and done with a real oversight committee that has teeth?

  9. Please stop says:


    It’s very interesting to me that you are writing extensively about the bond, and your disagreement with the school board and Runcie. Yes, this is your blog, and yes, you can write what you please, but please go fetch you some integrity. For godsake, report on truth and not what people feed you! Stop being lazy, and go find out how the bond can benefit the schools, and stop focusing on what has happened in the past with the last administration.

  10. Yes or no says:

    Mayor Ryan do you personally endorse this bond? I am sorry writing a law review type article putting forth sounds reasos why in a perfect world this bond is a good thing isn’t enough?

    Very simple, instead of saying what is bad about voting no, are you Mayor Ryan telling us here and now that you support and endorse the voters of Broward County to vote YES on this Amendment.

  11. Floridan says:

    Thank you Mayor Ryan — a refreshing voice of reason.

  12. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    With regret, I cannot support a new school district tax to be paid equally by all taxpayers when the district continues to arbitrarily, capriciously and in a clearly discriminatory way deny capital fund taxes we currently pay today to any public charter school within Broward’s public education system.

    Their policy of categorical denial of capital fund sharing with any charter school, however eligible and needy, is my view indefensibly an abuse of authority that every taxpayer should find insulting.

    The district has come along from their recent past. We see signs that they’ve learned to better control their behavior. That’s not enough.

    Their hearts and souls as evidenced by this continued corrupt policy, still need work. When they learn to treat everyone with equal respect, when they embrace fair policies for the distribution of all their taxpayer funds, including regular capital funds, then they can fully count on my support for anything rational that needs to be accomplished.

    I would gladly pay TWICE what they’re asking for if they’d only stop being so mean and unfair.

    But I can’t support their misuse of authority, the way they feel entitled to put a whip across the backs of charter parents simply for having the nerve to send their kids to a charter school they think is better for their child. Punishment for that is reprehensible and beyond hope for my support in any way.

    I attended some tough schools in NYC. Some were ten times worse and 100 years older than Broward’s worse school.

    We had 40 kids in a class back then. I didn’t speak English well and these were the days before ESOL. Some of us ended up dead in the streets, others survived and did the best we could. Some excelled somehow and went on to college and careers.

    All of us were treated equally. We were treated with respect and taught to have self-respect. In return, respect for others was demanded of us. We were in it together as a school, as a community, as a family. It was all for one, and one for all. That’s how things get done right.

    Those were lessons taught by amazing public schools teachers doing the best they could in facilities ten times worse than any in our community. I have never forgotten them and I thank them still for all they did for me.

    Would I like to see the leaky roofs fixed, yes of course. More important is that we fix the leaky souls that manage them.

    That’s why I can’t support this but I have hope for the future. I really do.

    The newer members of the school board are impressive people. When we met recently, I saw in their eyes reason to trust in their sense of fairness. I’m a strong believer that good people can get any problem right. When they come around to treating everyone with equal respect and dignity, I will be only too eager to reciprocate.


  13. Rico Petrocelli says:

    I will make this easy for your readers Buddy.

    I will advocate for NO, due to the responses from #s 2-3-4-5-7, and 12…..

    Please reread the above numbers and you will see why I am still voting no!

    Rico Petrocelli

  14. Rico Who? says:

    Rico, lets be serious, can you find 10 people who are not related to you or think you are your uncle that give a rats ass about your opinion on voting this up for down?
    Get off your own Kool Aid buddy, Who are you? What have you ever done? Off the Plantation Council because of the PAL mess and couldn’t even complete your term as BREC Chair.

  15. Rico Petrocelli says:

    #14, Another anonymous attacker, i feel sorry for you,

    Be a real man, or woman, and sign your name, come out of the anonymous world and join those who can put their names to something.

    People like Angelo, Mike,and others who sign their name, give credibility to their opinions, even if others disagree…..Signed

    Rico Petrocelli (Nephew of Boston Red Sox great)

  16. Anonymous says:

    Runcie lied to you about creating an independent committee with power to oversee the bonds. What do you say about that, Mayor Ryan?

  17. Rico Petrocelli says:

    #14…..ps… I forgive you…

    Rico Petrocelli

  18. J.W. says:

    Budddy, I would like to say thank you. It is stories like these that need to be posted that allow different beliefs and points to be raised. IF we were to listen to the words that are being spread we would make ignorant decisions concerning this bond. All of the principals and school board members gave sales pitches during all of the open houses, but they never gave the simplest of facts, like how much it wwould actually cost us. After all of the great information passed along in the comment string I don’t think I can add much more insight. So, i figured I would just send a thanks.
    Also, I have never been a fan of Runcie’s and don’t believe he ever should have been hired.

  19. J.W. says:

    Answer to #10: Yes Mayor Ryan is for the bonds. His favor is well written between the lines.

  20. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    By the way, I am a Bob Runcie fan in fact I think he’s probably the best superintendent Broward has ever had. There are many things he’d like to do that he can’t. And a few he’s doing he’d probably prefer not to do.

    Thing is, he’s not free to be as the superintendent he could be and that’s bad for our kids. He has to please an elected committee of people who rarely if ever see eye- to-eye on much. His is never an easy task while trying to be the CEO of one of the nation’s largest school districts.

    We would all be much better if he was an elected superintendent instead of an appointed one. This business of managing a things so large as the Broward County school district by committee is old hat for a community as sophisticated as ours. We’ve simply outgrown it. It doesn’t work anymore, it no longer serves us well, and the fact that it hangs around is a testament to how willing we are to serve it — instead of demanding that it serve us.

    All large school districts need an elected superintendent; an empowered CEO, assisted by an appointed, advisory school board selected regionally by parent groups.

    Committees are not set up to manage big things but small ones. For big jobs, you need a CEO who offers the voters a single point of accountability. School boards should have advisory not executive responsibilities in large school districts.

    Do this and watch the quality of our public schools skyrocket.

    Do it not and continue to regret the mediocrity you opted for. It’s really just that simple.

    Deny the value of this and you buck the trend of evolution and best practice. When, for crying out loud my friends — when, just once, will we get ahead of a curve in our beautiful Broward?

    What are we so afraid of? Greater success?

    Broward long ago outgrew the current management by committee structure that governs our public school system and really only works in much smaller environments. Broward County is too large a district to remain cramped within the confines of yesterday’s governmental paradigms.

    We’ve simply outgrown it, that system no longer serves us well, and we need evolve and grow beyond it. For our own sake.

    The current structure needs to be replaced. That new structure must offer clear promise for improvement and have independent checks and balances built in to ensure success, transparency and accountability.

    Nowhere in how we govern ourselves locally is that point made clearer than at the school board. So I say this lovingly to the community I call home.

    We need to grow up.

    Broward is today one of America’s largest urban counties. We still function with the same government paradigms we used when Broward mostly cow pastures. That size no longer fits us. We have outgrown it and need new systems that accommodate our current place in the world.

    We are a patient people in Broward who seem to prefer doing nothing to changing and improve our condition. We say we are progressives, but when it comes to making decisions we are profoundly conservative. Yet we have plenty of audacity when it comes to complaining.

    This too must change because we’ve outgrown that also.

    It’s time for Broward to be bold, it’s time for us to unleash our strengths, our hopes and dreams and time to make Broward truly great place by world standards.

    We have that talent here, we have the assets necessary. We simply need to develop the confidence that should come with the amazing talent we possess. Fear is the enemy. We need to grow up already, time is leaving us behind on too many important issues.




    The latest Grand Jury recommended the School system put on the ballot the question of an elected superintendent. The School Board has ignored that suggestion.

    U. S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz suggested when she was in the Florida Legislature that the Broward school system be divided in half. Her argument was that it was too large to govern. Maybe she was right.

  21. Rico Petrocelli says:

    I agree there should be a referendum on whether to elect the Superintendent, they are letting the people vote for a referendum on the bonds, why not the Superintendent? Let the people decide.

    If in Plantation we can have 2 referendums, 1 to ask the people if they want a strong Mayor form of government,or a City Manager,and 2, see if the people want their elections moved to November, then the School Board should let the people decide, or are they afraid of the outcome?

    Rico Petrocelli

  22. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Surely a single elected executive over a large Broward government organization can’t go wrong!!!

    Didn’t we just learn that from the sterling Broward examples of Al Lambdirty and Nick “Publicity Hound” Navarro?!?

    Oh, wait…

  23. Sharon Graham says:

    As a teacher for forty-two years, I have seen the abject corruption, lies and deceit in this county and I will never support this bond!! If I believed even for a second that Runcie and his crowd cared one iota about our students and schools, I would support it, however, that is not the case. Unless and until there are drastic changes in the leadership of Broward County Schools (including senior staff)nothing will change. When I think of the children over the years for whom I have purchased food, clothing,ect. I am livid about the manner in which the powers that be continue to misuse funds! Please do not support this bond!

  24. Broward Voter says:

    @22 Oh wait, what? Asshole. Your mother should be as worthy a human being as Nick Navarro was. You aren’t fit to lick his shoes, you POS.