Midland ISD’s approximately $1.4 billion school bond is drawing praise and criticism from leaders in the oil and gas industry
Midland voters will turn out on Tuesday, Nov. 7 to have their final say on Midland Independent School District’s bond proposal worth over $1.4 billion.
If approved, the bond would build two new comprehensive high schools to replace the Midland and Legacy High Schools which are both over 50 years old. It would also build a new elementary school and convert existing buildings into two new middle schools as well as support other improvements across the district.
Marfa Public Radio’s Permian Basin reporter Mitch Borden joined Morning Edition host Julie Bernal in the studio to break down recent developments.
Here is a synopsis of their conversation.
The bond won’t just build new schools, it’ll also help reorganize schools
The $1.4 billion bond could transform public education in Midland.
Campuses are aging and overcrowded, which the bond would help remedy. But another issue the district is looking to fix is how grades are organized at campuses.
By building larger high schools and converting facilities into new middle schools, Midland ISD officials aim to restructure which grades are taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels, moving sixth grade to middle schools and ninth grade to high school campuses.
Potential benefits from reconfiguring the district’s grades include expanding pre-K across the district, improving campus culture and expanding course options.
Oil and gas companies make an economic argument as they throw their support behind the bond
An editorial piece, recently published in the Midland Reporter-Telegram made the case for voters to support the bond. The op-ed was signed by top executives from oil companies like Pioneer Natural Resources, ConocoPhillips, and DiamondBack Energy.
Part of their argument is that this is not just an education issue — it’s also a workforce issue. These industry officials claim the Permian Basin will need to add around 190,000 workers to support the oil and gas industry by 2040 and aging schools that are in disrepair make it harder to recruit workers to West Texas.
Energy companies have also shown their support by pledging nearly half a million dollars towards promoting the bond during this election.
One West Texas Billionaire may be helping organize opposition to the bond
Midland’s Tim Dunn, who made his fortune in the oil industry and has also made a name for himself over the years as a deeply conservative christian political activist.
The Texas Tribune and ProPublica published an article last week linking MOVE Midland’s leadership, a nonprofit opposing Midland ISD’s bond, to Dunn.
The investigation specifically points out ties top MOVE Midland officials have to the oil tycoon.
For example, Rachel Walker, the president of MOVE Midland’s board of directors works for Dunn’s oil and gas company. However, Dunn is not listed as having any involvement with MOVE Midland.
Marfa Public Radio previously spoke to Walker about her concerns about the bond and MOVE Midland’s alternatives for addressing facility issues across the district.
Dunn has publicly criticized how the district and its advocates are promoting the bond, claiming that local tax payers are being misled — making similar arguments against voting for the bond that representatives of MOVE Midland have made.
According to the Texas Tribune and ProPublica, it is unclear how involved he is with the nonprofit because the organization is funded by “dark money” and does not have to publicly disclose its financial contributors.