We are living through an unprecedented time of uncertainty and concern affecting everyone, everywhere in so many ways. In the midst of all this chaos, we must cast a vote on April 7th on a referendum that, if passed, could positively impact the lives of all of our children across the Racine Community today and for
generations to come. Understandably, the COVID-19 crisis is all-consuming right now, and we had hoped this election could be rescheduled to a later date when the threat to public health had diminished, so people could focus more on this important proposal before us. But things are moving forward. Decisions will be made, and we feel compelled to make sure you are aware that this referendum could be a once-in-a-generation game-changer for our children, for our teachers and for our community.

For too long, we have taken a band-aid approach to addressing infrastructure needs in our schools. Sadly, the COVID-19 crisis illuminates just how far behind the eight ball this has left our children. The students in schools with access to digital and wireless technologies and distance learning capabilities have the resources and tools needed to stay on track this school year, despite schools being closed. Here in Racine, the fact is that for decades RUSD’s ever-growing costs to maintain aging, outdated facilities have robbed teachers and students of these critically important 21st Century technologies and tools, leaving our kids at a significant disadvantage today and in the future. Righting this wrong is a key driver behind the RUSD referendum.

Data clearly shows that strong public schools are cornerstones of strong, healthy communities. Communities that invest in public education see an exponential return on that investment with low unemployment rates, higher than average economic growth and stable, growing real-estate values. Businesses located in these communities find it’s a key factor in attracting and retaining top-caliber employees, and economic development thrives. Real estate in these communities is always in demand. And, low-unemployment is a key indicator that schools are doing their job – preparing young people for success in life. How schools prepare children for success is ever-changing, consistent with society’s changing needs, expectations, and technological advancements. The 21st Century is here, and the time has come to invest in 21st Century education in Racine.

The RUSD Referendum gives us an opportunity to make that investment. Unlike previous referendums, this is a comprehensive, holistic plan focused on providing all our children with access to state-of-the-art learning tools and technologies, and the programs and learning environments conducive to increasing individual and collective proficiency. The plan has built-in flexibility, not everything happens at once to enable changes to reflect population and demographic shifts. Some new schools will need to be constructed, others will need to be renovated, and the projected cost is significantly lower than that to maintain current school facilities that have an average age of 79 years. More importantly, these antiquated buildings were simply not designed for and cannot accommodate today’s sophisticated educational and learning digital and wireless technologies.

RUSD’s strategic plan lays out specific measures for success targeting significant improvements in graduation rates, attendance, 4K expansion, STEM participation, among others. The referendum before us is asking for the resources and tools RUSD desperately needs to meet those goals and ensure our children’s success in the 21 st Century and beyond.

Why do we care so much? Because our children are our future and they deserve better. Racine is home to our families, our businesses, our employees and their families. All of us want Racine to be a thriving community, offering a stronger, better future for generations to come. Some may ask if we can afford to make this kind of investment in our schools at this time. Our response is: We can’t afford not to. Every year we wait to invest in 21st Century education, we leave our children farther and farther behind where they could be, where they should be. We must not let near-term challenges cloud our vision of what we know is best for our children, their future and ours. That’s why on April 7, we’ll be voting YES on the RUSD referendum.

Helen Johnson-Leipold John Batten
Chairman, Johnson Financial Group Chief Executive Officer
Chairman & CEO, Johnson Outdoors Twin Disc

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In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/