Three Lee College Board of Regents recently emphatically emphasized ... Greg Poole is wrong! I must confess I have been wrong before. I didn’t believe bottled water would catch on, and I still can’t believe people get into strangers’ private cars rather than take a cab. However, the concept of local control that I and we have continued to espouse is sacred and always right.
Lee College has been in existence since 1934 and yet not a single of the 14 school districts they serve has ever voted to be in their taxing jurisdiction. It is a tragedy that the only time we sense initiative from Lee College is when they seek to protect their monopoly. This is the third consecutive legislative session in which Lee College has actively engaged in subversive attempts to prevent our taxpayers a choice. The last two legislative sessions, BHISD actually initiated legislation that would have given our community a college at no additional tax burden. We are at a loss to understand Lee College’s desperate attempts to continue to undermine initiatives that are obviously in the best interest of our community and most especially, of our students.
The irony is the proposed legislation in no way diminishes, lessens or negates any power or authority Lee College currently has. It simply produces competition via choice. As proof that competition benefits all stakeholders, consider the recent article signed by three Lee College Regents. For the absolute first time during seven years of discussion, they propose the option of actually lowering their tax rate! It is common sense that Lee College’s tax rate could be lowered with the addition of Barbers Hill’s appraised value, but this is the first time it has ever been offered. The possibility of a competing community college evidently causes the leadership of Lee College to now reconsider their $0.25 tax rate.
Regardless, we do not hold Lee College solely responsible for the fact that we are not being fully served. It is the state-wide community college system that is broken and dysfunctional. This antiquated structure was designed half a century ago and has long since lost its usefulness. It creates the scenario in which Barbers Hill ISD is, so-called, “served” by a community college that has never had a physical presence in our district and gives us zero representation on their governing board.
Ironically, the group that will most benefit from choice is absent in any Lee College dialogue, that being our students. A Lee College Board of Regents member recently asked me why Barbers Hill deserves a college facility in our midst. Evidently he hasn’t tried to drive across Baytown recently or perhaps he believes what is good for Baytown is not good for the Mont Belvieu community. We respectfully seek to give our constituents the same courtesy of choosing how our tax monies are used, and how our students are best served, just as Baytown did when forming Lee College.
These concerns will not be resolved by dueling editorials, nor should they be. The right of self-determination is sacred to this country and the issue is not whether Greg Poole is right or Lee College is right. The voters are the voice that should determine course of action, and we support SB 2344 and HB 3835, which give them that voice. All we ask is that we give our taxpayers a choice and competition a chance.
Dr. Greg Poole is superintendent of Barbers Hill ISD.